P. Scott Rubin: The 1885 Double Eagle is a very rare coin especially when considering the coins struck for circulation. Collectors of Double Eagles will find it easier to obtain a Gem Proof specimen than a Gem circulation strike specimen, since it appears that no Gem quality circulation strikes are known. It is also cheaper to purchase a Proof 60 to 63 1885 Double Eagle then it is to buy a MS 60 to 63 specimen.
The earliest auction appearance of a circulation strike 1885 Double Eagle is B. Max Mehl’s February, 1909 offering as lot 320 in his 11th mail bid sale. This was one of only two Uncirculated coins offered at auction before the 1960’s that I have found. The next auction of a circulation strike 1885 Double Eagle did not occur until Elder’s November, 1930 auction, lot 2405. In total, I am aware of only six specimens being offered before 1962.
By the 1960’s, and especially in the 1970’s and later, American coin dealers started to acquire gold coins from Europe. This helps explain the increase in circulation specimens offered at auction. I am aware of twelve offerings of 1885 circulation strike Double Eagles during the decade of the 1960’s. The number has increased every decade since, however this includes a number of the same specimens appearing for sale.David Akers (1975/88): Next to the 1882 (and possibly the 1961 Paquet whose mintage is unknown), the 1885 has the lowest mintage of any regular issue (business strike) Liberty Head Double Eagle. In terms of overall rarity, the 1885 is almost identical to the 1881 and just a little less rare than 1886. As a business strike, it is also similar in rarity to the 1854-O and 1870-CC. However, the 1885 is considerably less rare in high grade than any of the aforementioned dates. Most 1885's are AU or Choice AU and perhaps as many as six or seven true uncs exist including at least one gem, the auction '79 coin.