Doug Winter: After three consecutive years of tiny mintages, production of double eagles at the New Orleans mint increased in 1857. While only 30,000 were struck, this was more than twice as many as had been made from 1854 through 1856. This should not give the impression that the 1857-O is a common issue, as it is, in fact, very scarce and similar in overall rarity to the 1858-O.
In lower grades, the 1857-O double eagle is less rare than it was a few years ago. But this date has remained rare in properly graded AU50 and it is very rare in AU55 to AU58. Uncirculated examples are very rare with just six to eight pieces currently known to exist.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, a hoard of around four to five dozen 1857-O double eagles entered the market. These coins, for the most part, graded in the EF40 to AU50 range and were characterized by deep toning, slightly Prooflike luster and heavily abraded surfaces. Many have subsequently been dipped.
STRIKE: The strike on most examples is below average. The obverse shows softness on the curls around the face and below the ear of Liberty. Weakness is also noted on the top of Liberty’s head and bun. The stars show some radial line detail but the denticles are weak. The reverse is weak on the tail feathers, the neck feathers of the eagle and the wing tips. On many coins the mintmark is quite faint and it may be nearly invisible on lower grade specimens.
SURFACES: There are only a few 1857-O double eagles that do not display very heavy abrasions on the surfaces. Many have been cleaned and are severely hairlined as a result. In addition, there are a number that have mint-made imperfections such as black streaks or areas of discoloration.
LUSTER: The luster is better than one might expect and higher grade pieces have semi-prooflike or even fully prooflike reflectiveness. It is hard to locate an 1857-O double eagle with unimpaired luster as most have been cleaned or dipped.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep green-gold. Many are unnaturally bright from having been cleaned or dipped. Pieces with attractive natural color are extremely scarce.
EYE APPEAL: This date has below average eye appeal. Most are not well struck and they display very heavy abrasions on the surfaces. Locating a piece that is attractive and original to not impossible, but this is clearly among the hardest Type One Liberty Head double eagles to find with good eye appeal.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: All 1857-O double eagles have raised die rust near the ear of Liberty. The A in STATES is patched and the first A in AMERICA is filled at the bottom.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known:
Variety One: The date is well centered and evenly spaced with the base of the 7 seemingly lower than the other three digits. The date is sharper at the top than at the bottom. The mintmark is lightly impressed and it leans towards the left. It is directly over the middle of the N in TWENTY and close to the feathers.David Akers (1975/88): The 1857-O is a rare date in any condition and most known specimens grade only VF or EF. There are at most a mere handful of strictly graded AU coins in existence and I have personally examined only one unc, the very choice Kaufman specimen now in the Bass Collection. Overall, the 1857-O is slightly less rare than the 1858-O and is perhaps just a bit more rare than the lower mintage 1861-O. It is also decidedly more rare than the O-Mint issues from 1850 to 1853. The typical 1857-O is semi-prooflike or prooflike.
Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection
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