Doug Winter: After a four year hiatus, coinage of eagles at the New Orleans mint resumed in 1888. Beginning with this issue, the level of rarity and the grade distribution of these issues takes on an entirely different complexion. Clearly, these issues did not see wide circulation and it is probable that those which were not ultimately melted were shipped overseas.
The 1888-O has become a relatively common date in grades up to and including MS62. It is still scarce in properly graded MS63 and it remains essentially unknown in any grade above this.
In the past decade, the 1888-O has become far more available to the discovery of at least one or two large hoards. These pieces started coming onto the market in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and were mostly graded MS60 to MS62... Today, many of these coins have “gradeflated” into MS63’s and 20 examples have been encapsulated as MS63...as of the end of 2005.
STRIKE: The strike is usually sharp with the exception of the stars which are often very flat at the centers.
SURFACES: The surfaces are usually very bagmarked although not as much so as on the 1892-O and the 1893-O eagles. I have seen a number of 1888-O eagles which had unusual parallel lines in the planchet. This appears to be the result of faulty preparation of the blanks.
LUSTER: The luster is above average. It is usually frosty with a slightly grainy texture. There are some semi-prooflike and even fully prooflike pieces known but these tend to be softly struck on the stars and heavily abraded.
COLORATION: The coloration ranges from orange-gold to green-gold. The 1888-O does not generally have the “European” look that dates such as the 1892-O, 1893-O, 1894-O and 1895-O have. This suggests that the hoards of 1888-O eagles were either stored differently than these other dates or are from another source.
EYE APPEAL: This date generally has above average eye appeal. With some time and patience, the collector should be able to find a MS62 to MS63 example with acceptable surfaces, color and luster.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are a number of raised horizontal die lines below Liberty’s ear and on the neck. There is often a clashmark on the reverse at the back of the eagle’s neck.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known.
Variety One: The date is slightly closer to the neck than to the denticles and it often appears somewhat flatly impressed. The mintmark is close to the feather and it leans very slightly to the left. Some show an obverse die crack which joins many of the stars.