Doug Winter: The 1879-O has the second lowest mintage figure of any New Orleans eagle and the second lowest mintage figure for any gold coin struck at this mint. It is the third rarest New Orleans eagle in terms of overall rarity, trailing the 1883-O and the 1859-O. There was just a single example of this date in the Bass collection and many of the great gold sales of the past either lacked an 1879-O eagle or were represented by an off-quality piece.
The 1879-O is the third rarest New Orleans eagle. Only four to five dozen are known from an original mintage figure of 1,500. About eighty percent of the survivors grade VF to EF and are characterized by densely abraded surfaces. A properly graded AU50 to AU53 is rare and an AU55 to AU58 is very rare. In Uncirculated, the 1879-O eagle is unique.
STRIKE: The strike is fairly sharp overall with some obverse weakness usually seen at the center. Some of the stars may show flatness at the centers; especially the final two or three. The reverse is well struck with sharp detail seen on the feathers and on the wingtips.
SURFACES: I have never seen an 1879-O eagle that was not significantly abraded on both the obverse and the reverse. These marks are usually most noticeable in the obverse fields and they cause most examples to have poor overall eye appeal. Some have mint-made copper spots as well. I have also seen a few that displayed parallel roller marks, as made. An example of this was seen on the BassII:1574 coin.
LUSTER: The luster is prooflike and often very reflective. The luster is usually disturbed by the presence of deep abrasions.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep yellow gold. Some have reddish toning. There are not more than a handful of 1879-O eagles that have not been dipped and/or processed. Any example with rich original coloration is extremely scarce and desirable.
EYE APPEAL: This date has below average eye appeal. The typical 1879-O eagle is prooflike and heavily abraded, which tends to magnify these marks. Most have been cleaned and many have unappealing color due to having been cleaned. Only a small number of attractive pieces are known and most of these are off the market in strongly-held collections.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are numerous raised die scratches through the letters in LIBERTY. The ribbon end below IN is broken free from the scroll due to die polishing. The first stripe in the second set of vertical stripes is thin at the top but is not broken.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known.
Variety One: The date is well sized and spaced midway between the neck and the denticles. The mintmark is placed fairly close to the arrow feather over the gap between the E and the N in TEN.
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