Hostilities in the American Civil War commenced on April 12, 1861, when the Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina. Hopes of a short war faded after the first major battle was fought in northern Virginia near a stream called Bull Run on July 21, 1861.(1)
As a gloomy uncertainty descended across the nation, widespread hoarding of silver and gold caused coinage to vanish from circulation. When the crisis worsened, the United States government suspended specie (i.e., silver and gold) payments by late 1861 in order to preserve bullion in the federal Treasury during wartime.(2)
Activity at the Philadelphia Mint reflected the events of those perilous times. In 1861, the Mint released nearly 3 million Coronet $20 double eagles, but by 1862, that number fell precipitously by 97% to just 92,098 business strike pieces.
Middle class collectors of the 19th century could ill afford to set aside double eagles for the sake of a hobby. What few wealthy numismatists who were around at the time preferred proof coins rather than regular circulation examples.
As a result, many of the 1862 double eagles were exported and eventually melted. Researchers estimate there are only about 215 examples existing today,(3) computing to a survival rate of 0.2% (that’s 2/10th of one percent!).
After considering its relatively small mintage and very low survival, its no surprise the 1862 double eagle is an eagerly sought rarity by current day collectors. Prices have escalated dramatically since the early 2000’s (despite the odd pricing in 2015), but this latest surge is simply a repeat of what has occurred multiple times since at least 1950.
For every coin on the Key Date List of recommendations, there is an underlying set of circumstances detailing how it earned a place on this illustrious roster. Explanations might entail economic depression, bullion speculation, high-level collector demand, or any number of factors. In the case of the 1862 Coronet double eagle, its numismatic legacy is clearly connected to the most catastrophic conflict in American history – the Civil War.
Extreme rarity, historical significance, collector popularity – the 1862 Coronet double eagle has it all going for it.
|Estimated survivors in all grades: 215
? 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: 6.8
? 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.
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