David Akers (1975/88): No O-Mint Double Eagle can be reasonably called "common" but the 1851-O is certainly the most often avaailable of the 13 issues from this Mint. The majority of known pieces grade VF or EF but it is not especially unusual to locate a very nice AU. However, in full mint state the story changes dramatically and a true Unc. 1851-O is certainly rare. Choice or gem uncs are extremely rare and probably no more than a handful of such pieces exist. Virtually all known examples of this date are semi-prooflike or prooflike.Doug Winter: The original mintage for the 1851-O is nearly twice as large as the next most plentiful double eagle from this mint (the 1852-O has a mintage of 190,000 coins). As one might expect, the 1851-O is the most common New Orleans double eagle in terms of overall rarity. It is easy to locate in the lower circulated grades and it can be found in the AU50 to AU53 range with minimal effort. It becomes quite scarce in AU58 and it is rare in any Uncirculated grade.
The 1851-O is the most common New Orleans double eagle in terms of overall rarity and the second most available in high grades. Since this date generally has a nice appearance for a New Orleans double eagle, it is popular as a type coin. But, as with all pre-Civil War gold issues from this mint, it is rare in properly graded Uncirculated. Of the dozen or so that exist, there do not appear to be any finer than MS63.
STRIKE: The strike is much sharper overall than on the 1850-O and is among the best found on any New Orleans double eagle. The obverse is usually well detailed at the center with some of the hair strands showing individual definition. The stars are likely to have weakness on the radial lines but some 1850-O double eagles are very sharp in this area. The reverse generally shows strong detail with the exception of the top of the lettering which may display weakness.
SURFACES: Most 1851-O double eagles are very heavily abraded. A number have swirls of either die polish or rust in the obverse fields and below UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the reverse. Some show mint-made black grease stains in the planchet. It is possible to find an example that has nice surfaces but such coins are exceptions to the rule.
LUSTER: The luster tends to be better than on most Type One New Orleans double eagles. High grade pieces either show frosty luster or, less often, semi-prooflike luster. A small number are fully prooflike and these can be quite spectacular in appearance. On some coins in the AU50 to AU55 range, the luster is impaired as a result of excessive abrasions. Many 1851-O double eagles have been cleaned, causing the original luster to be impaired.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep green-gold. On a few, the color is more of a lemon-yellow hue. There are some 1851-O double eagles that have really attractive color but most have been cleaned or dipped and no longer show natural shadings.
EYE APPEAL: The level of eye appeal for the 1851-O is generally higher than for other double eagles from this mint. Many are well struck and show good luster. However, it is extremely hard to find a coin that does not have heavy bagmarks and most have been cleaned or dipped as well.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are raised die rust marks on the neck of Liberty which can be seen even on lower grade coins. The base of the I in LIBERTY is joined to the B by a small ridge of metal. There is die polish seen within many of the letters on the reverse.
MAJOR VARIETIES: It is likely that a number of minor varieties are known for this date, but I have not carefully studied them. The most common variety is as follows:
Variety One: The date is well centered between the truncation and the denticles. The 5 is closed, with the ball of this digit just about touching the upper portion. The mintmark is high in the field and it almost touches the eagle's tail feathers. It is placed over the center of the N in TWENTY. On late die states, cracks can be seen at the tops of the letters in AMERICA extending downwards to the period after the D in the value.
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