David Akers (1975/88): The 1854-O is one of the most famous dates in the Double Eagle series and it also one of the rarest. In particular, it is the second rarest O-Mint twenty after the 1856-O and it is comparable overall to the 1870-CC and business strikes of 1881 and 1885. It is not as rare as a business strike 1882 or 1886 and, of course, it is not nearly as rare as the 1861 Paquet. However, other than the aforementioned dates, the 1854-O is more rare than any other regular issue Liberty Head. (The proof-only 1883 and 1884 are also a bit more rare than this date, particularly the 1884.) The only specimen catalogued as "uncirculated" was in the 1944 Bell sale. I have not seen that piece so I cannot say if it is really uncirculated. In fact, I have not seen a strictly mint state example in any collection although I have seen three very nice AU's, the finest being an AU-55 coin in a prominent Dallas bank collection. When available, and that is not likely to be very often, the typical 1854-O is VF or EF with a partially prooflike or fully prooflike surface.Doug Winter: The 1854-O is, along with the 1856-O, one of the two rarest collectible New Orleans double eagles. Examples are usually sold only at auctions of major “name” collections. Ownership of an 1854-O double eagle is considered a hallmark of a truly great collection of New Orleans gold coinage.
The 1854-O is one of the great rarities in the Liberty Head double eagle series. There are only 25-35 known and nearly all grade EF40 or below. This is, along with the 1856-O, the rarest New Orleans gold coin of any denomination in high grades, with just five to seven About Uncirculated pieces in existence and no Mint State examples.
STRIKE: This is generally a well struck issue. On the obverse, there is sometimes weakness on the curls around the face, at the top of head and on the curls below Liberty’s ear. The overall detail, however, is sharper than on other Type One double eagles from New Orleans. The stars are well-defined with many showing radial lines. The denticles are clear and sharp. The reverse is weak on the eagle’s tail feathers and the banner. This is such a rare coin that the quality of strike does not really matter. Collectors should be more concerned with an 1854-O double eagle’s overall appearance and eye appeal.
SURFACES: Most 1854-O double eagles are well circulated and, as a result, they show very heavily abraded surfaces. There are some diagnostic criteria which are seen on all genuine examples. The date is small and it slants up to the right. There are raised die lines at the TY in LIBERTY which can be seen even on low grade coins. A tiny raised die lump can be seen on Liberty’s neck, close to the largest curl. None of these are present on 1854 Philadelphia and San Francisco double eagles and they serve as good hallmarks of authenticity.
LUSTER: The typical 1854-O double eagle is worn to the point that little--if any-- original mint luster is present. On the few higher grade pieces that have remaining luster, it is prooflike and fairly reflective.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep green-gold. Nearly every known 1854-O double eagle has been cleaned and now shows a lighter yellow-gold hue as a result. Any piece with original color is very desirable and should command a strong premium.
EYE APPEAL: When examples are offered for sale, they are often lower quality “problem” pieces. There are not many 1854-O double eagles with good eye appeal and these tend to be in tightly-held collections.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: In addition to the die characteristics described above, all 1854-O double eagles show raised die lines in the small area between the earlobe and the curls. Many of the stars on the obverse are doubled. Many of the letters on the reverse are filled with die polish. This is especially notable at the curved portion of the U in UNITED and in the letters of AMERICA.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is just a single variety known:
Variety One: All 1854-O double eagles employ the Small Date logotype (Large Date coins are known on Philadelphia coins). The date is well centered and is about equal in distance between the truncation and the denticles. The 54 is close but does not touch. The mintmark is tall and centered over the middle of the N in TWENTY. It does not touch the feathers. The reverse is very similar to the 1855-O but the mintmark on the 1854-O is considerably lower.
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