Doug Winter: The 1842-O eagle is a far more available coin than the 1841-O. Most people do not realize, however, that this date is extremely rare in higher grades and it is a very hard issue to find with good eye appeal.
The 1842-O is only a moderately scarce issue in VF and EF. It becomes very scarce in the lower AU grades and is rare and underappreciated in the higher AU grades. This date is extremely rare in Uncirculated and it has been many years since a Mint State example has been available for sale.
STRIKE: The 1842-O eagle is found with a better strike than the 1841-O or the 1842-O. The typical piece is weak at the central obverse, especially on the curls around the face and behind the ear of Liberty. The stars sometimes have strong radial lines but they are more often weak. The reverse is better struck than the obverse with good detail at the center and periphery.
SURFACES: Virtually every known 1842-O eagle is very heavily abraded. Clearly, this was an issue that was placed into general circulation and most of the coins struck were actively used in commerce. The obverse fields are generally very scruffy, while the reverse tends to be a bit cleaner.
LUSTER: The majority of the higher grade 1842-O eagles have soft, frosty luster that is similar in texture to that seen on many New Orleans eagles from this era. There are also a few that are prooflike including at least one that was offered as a “presentation piece” back in the late 1980’s. The luster is usually impaired as a result of cleaning.
COLORATION: The natural coloration ranges from orange-gold to deep green-gold. There are not many surviving examples that have original color, especially those in the AU50 to AU58 grade range.
EYE APPEAL: The level of eye appeal for this date is below average. The typical 1842-O eagle is heavily abraded with impaired luster and softness of strike at the centers. Most of the coins that I have seen graded AU55 to AU58 by NGC and PCGS are overgraded and a clean, problem-free original AU coin is very rare.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are no prominent characteristics on the obverse. On the reverse, the tops of some of the shield lines extend into the horizontal lines. There is a small area of roughness (die rust or possibly clashmarks) between the last set of vertical stripes and the inside of the right side of the shield. There is also a small die chip on the crossbar of the T in UNITED.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There are two varieties known:
Variety One: The date is large and well centered. The reverse is the same as that seen on the 1841-O eagle.
This is the more common of the two varieties.
Variety Two: Same obverse as on the last. It is sometimes seen with die artifacts around several stars and raised finish lines protruding from the rim below some of the stars. The reverse is similar to that on Variety One but different. The mintmark on this variety is rounder and wider across. Most noticeable, the tip of the lowest arrow feather points to the top of the O. Late die states are known with cracks from the D in UNITED to the wingtip and beyond and another from the edge of the F in OF to the wingtip.
This is the scarcer of the two varieties.David Akers (1975/88): Despite its lower mintage, the 1842-O has appeared at auction more often than the 1840, 1841 or either 1842. However, almost all of those appearances were for EF or lesser specimens and the date is definitely rare better than EF. By far the most often encountered grade for the 1842-O is only VF. I have seen a few AU examples and two average quality uncirculated pieces but never a really choice one.
Possible presentation piece, but altered surfaces. Superior Galleries “A. Bernard Shore Collection” 1/1988:4276 - Goldbergs 5/2011:1576, $25,300
Stack's 8/2010:1094, $74,750