1861-O Coronet $20 Double Eagle

Without question, advanced collectors are especially fond of the 1861-O Coronet $20 double eagle, because of both its scarcity and true historical significance.

All 1861-O double eagles were struck by the same die pair, but under the auspices of three separate governments. Although there is no ironclad confirmation of how many were struck by which controlling authority, scholars have postulated the following:(1)

  • January 1-26, 1861: 5,000 coins struck by the United States.
  • January 26-March 31, 1861: 9,750 coins struck by the State of Louisiana after it seceded from the Union and took control of the New Orleans Mint.
  • April 1-30, 1861: 2,991 coins struck by the Confederate States of America after Louisiana joined the Confederacy.

The coins struck by southern forces all bore the lettering UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The management team now overseeing the New Orleans Mint chose not to manufacture new dies immediately after the termination of U.S. authority, but continued to use the federal design until the supply of bullion was depleted.

A large majority of the 1861-O double eagles are weakly struck on the lower portions of the 1861 date. After extensive research, numismatists Doug Winter and Joe Gaines noted about 20% of the surviving coins display a bold date AND a die crack extending from the rim near star 2 to Liberty’s chin.(2)

The stronger date, it is theorized, occurred after the numerals were strengthened by the engraving effort of a Mint workman. Because the die crack would have necessarily taken place later in the production run, the coins made by the late-state die were likely struck by the hand of the Confederacy.

Fascinating Fact: The Confederate States of America officially stuck a grand total of four coins, all half dollars. The obverse utilized the federal Seated Liberty die, but the reverse introduced a new Confederate coat of arms, surrounded by cotton and sugar cane, important symbols of the southern economy. The striking of the four Confederate half dollars was not widely known, a fact that remained hidden to most until 1879.(3)

There were not many double eagle collectors during the 19th century, because few could afford to idle multiple twenty dollar coins. Affluent collectors who could afford to do so generally preferred proof examples from the Philadelphia Mint, all but ignoring issues from New Orleans and other branch mints.(4)

In terms of absolute rarity, the 1861-O is not quite as elusive as some of the O-Mint double eagles from the antebellum period. Of the 17,741 mintage, an estimated 256 are still around today.(5)

However, because of its close connection to the Civil War, the 1861-O enjoys a broad range of appeal, reaching well beyond gold coin specialists. The number of surviving examples is woefully inadequate to meet the incredible demand generated by legions of collectors desiring an artifact from a crucial moment in American history.

Consequently, the value trends for the 1861-O are some of the most powerful seen in the Rare Coins 101 survey of United States coinage.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 256
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 6.6
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
Click HERE to check for availability on eBay**

Preview of eBay selection (don't forget the HERE link above to expand your search for the elusive $1861-O $20):

1861-O Coronet $20 double eagle images New Orleans key date gold coin 1861-O Coronet $20 double eagle
Trendline Avg = 42.44 BEST
Last updated 9-13-23
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1. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1861-O Liberty Head Double Eagle.  Aug 2022 Auction.

2. PCGS.  1861-O $20 (Regular Strike).

3. Krause, Barry.  "Tracking the Confederate Half".  The Numismatist MagazineAmerican Numismatic Association, Mar 2001.

4. Heritage Auctions.  1861-O $20.  Feb 2020 Auction.

5. PCGS.  1861-O $20 (Regular Strike).

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

As is always, always the case, never buy a valuable coin from a seller whose trustworthiness cannot be verified. Learn more about this at our chapter Best Places to Buy Coins, which also has a section on doing business on eBay.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.