David Akers (1975/88): Although fairly common as a date by three dollar gold piece standards, the 1854-O is rare in AU and very rare in uncirculated condition. In fact, this coin ranks 4th in the series in rarity according to average grade. Most specimens have a weak mintmark amd many have a die break at the mintmark. Well struck specimens with a bold mintmark and no die break are very rare.Doug Winter: The 1854-O is the only Three Dollar gold piece produced at the New Orleans mint. It is not nearly as rare as its southern counterpart the 1854-D, but it is an extremely hard issue to locate in high grades.
The 1854-O Three Dollar gold piece is a popular issue as it is the only New Orleans issue of this denomination. It is a relatively common coin in lower grades and is usually seen in the VF25 to EF45 range. It is scarce in properly graded AU50 to AU53, rare in AU55 and very rare in correctly graded AU58. I have only seen three or four coins that I felt were Uncirculated.
STRIKE: The amount of detail seen on the issue depends on how early in the production run it was struck (see below for more information). In addition to the effects of die lapping, which reduced detail on most pieces, the typical 1854-O is not well-defined at the centers. Even coins described as “well struck for the issue” tend to have weak detail on the curls. Unlike the 1854-D, this issue does show sharp denticles on the obverse and reverse.
SURFACES: The surfaces are nearly always heavily marked and many show scratches or significant problems that are not of mint origin. Many pieces have copper spotting or discoloration on the surfaces. I have seen a number of 1854-O Three Dollar gold pieces that had mint-made planchet chips or other planchet problems. This is an extremely hard coin to find with acceptable surfaces.
LUSTER: This issue does not have good luster. Most are well worn and have little luster remaining. On higher grade coins, the luster is dull and slightly grainy. A few semi-prooflike pieces are known. They do not have highly reflective fields but have a much different “look” than usual.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a deep green-gold hue. A few examples have lighter yellow-gold color. There are not many that have not been cleaned or dipped. A high grade 1854-O Three Dollar gold piece with attractive color is very rare.
EYE APPEAL: The level of eye appeal for the 1854-O Three Dollar gold piece is well below average. Most are well worn and show poor strikes. The majority have been cleaned and show unappealing color and dull luster. I have seen only a handful of attractive, original pieces and these generally command a large premium among knowledgeable collectors.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There are two major varieties known. These are not actual die varieties as they show similar date and mintmark positions.
Variety One: Both the obverse and the reverse are well struck. On the obverse, the designer’s initials (J.B.L.) are full. The date and the mintmark are bold and there are no die cracks noted. Later die states show moderate to heavy clashmarks.
This is by far the rarer of the two varieties. Fewer than 25% of the surviving 1854-O Three Dollar gold pieces are Variety 1.
Variety Two: Due to clashmarks, the dies were relapped. As a result, much of the detail was weakened or lost. On the obverse, the lettering is weak, especially the bases of STATES OF. Close to half of the designer’s initials have been removed by the relapping mentioned above. Late die states show cracks through AMERICA.
The lettering is still reasonably sharp on the reverse except for the mintmark which is now thin and weak. The left ribbon is weak and appears disconnected from the bow, while no leaf can be seen to the left of the date as on early strikings. A number of die breaks can be seen at the lower reverse, including some at the mintmark and the top ribbon end.
This is the more common of the two varieties.