Doug Winter: The following information is from my eBook on Type One Liberty Head Double Eagles at http://doubleeaglebook.com/
The 1854 Small Date is slightly scarcer than the 1852 and 1853 in terms of overall rarity. In higher grades, it is a significantly rarer coin. Even with the Type One market now as sophisticated as it is, few people realize how hard it is to locate an 1854 Small Date in About Uncirculated-58 and higher grades.
STRIKE: Most 1854 Small Date double eagles are well struck. The obverse shows good detail on the hair with the curls well defined and the hair at the top of the head often is individually defined. The stars may show full radial lines and the denticles are sharp. The reverse is also well struck with boldly detailed feathers and sharp stripes in the shield.
SURFACES: The surfaces are often covered with deep, detracting abrasions. Some show mint-made roughness in the planchet or other detracting problems. The collector should be able to find a clean, problem-free piece but his search may take longer than anticipated.
LUSTER: This issue shows average quality luster. Higher grade pieces may show nice mint frost with a slightly satiny texture. A few slightly prooflike pieces exist but these tend to be unattractive as a result of over-abraded fields.
COLORATION: The natural coloration for this issue ranges from medium yellow-gold to orange with rose-gold overtones. There are not many high-grade 1854 Small Date double eagles with original color, and these sell for a premium when they are offered.
EYE APPEAL: This date shows slightly below average eye appeal. The strike tends to be good and higher grade pieces may show good luster. But the typical example is found with impaired luster due to extensive marks and many have been cleaned or dipped as well.
INTERESTING VARIETIES: One very interesting variety is known:
1854/1854 Doubled Date (VP-001). Around 5% of the known 1854 Small Date double eagles show a noticeably repunched date with the original placed slightly too high and then corrected. This doubling can be seen with the naked eye and is plainest on the 854. It is scares in all grades and very rare in AU58 and above. It should comman a 10-30% premium depending on the grade of the specific coin.
PROOFS: It is believed that at least two proofs were produced, and one was included in a full Proof set made for presentation to the city of Bremen, Germany. There are a few old auction listings for Proofs but many can be discounted as to their authenticity.
HOARDS: There were 30 examples in the S.S. Republic including three in Mint State. 19 were found in the S.S. Central America treasure. There were 12 in the Baltimore Hoard.
BUYING TIPS: The collector seeking a high-grade 1854 Small Date double eagle should be willing to pay a premium price for a coin which is CAC quality.
AUCTION RECORD: The current auction record for the 1854 Small Date is $17,625 which was set by Heritage 2014 ANA: 4066. This coin was graded MS62 by PCGS.
FINEST KNOWN: This is another date where the single finest known is head and shoulders finer than the next best. The William Crawford collection contains a splendid gem graded MS65 by PCGS.
TOTAL KNOWN: 1500-2000+
Very Fine: 625-900
Extremely Fine: 625-800
About Uncirculated: 225-250
POPULATION FIGURES: As of the beginning of 2015, PCGS had graded five in MS60, 12 in MS61, five in MS62, two in MS63, and one in MS65 for a total of 26 in Uncirculated. NGC had graded three in MS60, 16 in MS61 and four in MS62, as well as one in MS60 and two in MS61 from the S.S. Republic, for a total of 26 in Uncirculated. These figures are inflated by resubmissions, especially in MS61 and MS62. CAC has approved one coin in MS60, and four in MS61.
PERFORMANCE SINCE 2002: In the current market, a choice About Uncirculated example (equivalent to an AU55) sells for $3,250-4,250. In 2002, the same coin would have sold for $1,250-1,500. A nice Uncirculated example (equivalent to an MS61) currently sells for $10,000-13,000. In 2002, the same coin would have sold for $6,000-7,000. This performance trails some of the other comparable Philadelphia double eagles of this era, leading me to believe that this date is currently undervalued.
COMMENTS: The 1854 Small Date remains an undervalued and overlooked date in higher grades. It is not as scarce as the 1855 and 1856 but it is much harder to locate than the 1850-1853 issues. If I were going to pick an interesting date in the Type One series to create a Year Set it would be 1854. It includes to interesting issues from Philadelphia, the extremely rare 1854-O, and the historically important 1854-S.David Akers (1975/88): As a date, the 1854 is decidedly more rare than the 1850, 1851, 1852 and 1853. However, is it not as difficult to obtain as any of the P-Mint issues from 1855 to 1859. Most known 1854 Double Eagles grade VF or EF but AU's are also available from time to time. In mint state condition, the 1854 is definitely rare and choice and gem quality uncs are extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible to find. There are two major varieties of 1854, Large Date and Small Date. The size difference is considerable and readily noticeable. In my experience, the Large Date variety is the scarcer of the two.
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