David Akers (1975/88): This one of my favorite Double Eagles. I think that it is one of the most unappreciated coins in the series and it is undeniably one of the rarest, especially in high grade. It is not quite as rare overall as the 1854-O and 1856-O but the difference in rarity is not as great as the price differential would imply. Furthermore, I feel the 1855-O is actually rarer than either the 1854-O or 1856-O in high grade and is one of the two or three rarest Double Eagles with respect to condition rarity. Although there are several auction records for AU's, I have never seen one at that level. The two finest specimens I know of are the choice EF-45's in a prominent Dallas bank collection and the Eliasberg Collection and I have seen a few other solid EF-40's. Most of those I've encountered were only VF and, in truth, this date is not often seen in any grade. Not included in the 443 sales used in this analysis were two sales (Deetz, Stack's 1946 and C. W. Green, Mehl 1949) that contained specimens graded "uncirculated." I have not personally examined either of those coins and therefore cannot vouch for their condition. However, based on what I have seen and heard of, I am skeptical that they would grade uncirculated by today's standards. The 1855-O is always semi-prooflike or prooflike.Doug Winter: When considering the rarity of New Orleans double eagles, the 1854-O and the 1856-O are in a class by themselves. In the next group are issues such as the 1855-O, 1859-O and 1860-O. Of these, the 1855-O is clearly the rarest, especially in high grades.
The 1855-O is the rarest collectible New Orleans double eagle. Most of the specimens known to exist are in the VF30 to EF40 range. The issue is seldom seen in grades higher than EF45 and accurately graded About Uncirculated pieces are very rare. Mint State 1855-O double eagles are extremely rare with just one or two currently known.
STRIKE: The 1855-O is not as well struck as some of the earlier New Orleans double eagles, but it is sharper than such later dates as the 1859-O and 1860-O. The hair is usually relatively well detailed although the curls below Liberty’s ear and at the top of her head may show weakness. The stars are sharp with exception of the first one and the sixth through ninth, which are often weak. The reverse is well struck with good detail on the feathers and wing tips. The mintmark is usually faint, especially on the left side.
SURFACES: It is easier to locate an 1855-O with acceptable surfaces than many of the other rare New Orleans double eagles. Despite the fact that excessive bagmarks are not as prevalent on this date as on others of this era, the 1855-O is notorious for mint-made planchet chips. There are also a number that show detracting scratches and/or scrapes.
LUSTER: This is an issue that has good luster. Higher grade pieces are either semi-prooflike or almost fully prooflike. Unfortunately, it is very hard to find an example that has not been cleaned or dipped and, in the process, stripped of its original luster.
COLORATION: The coloration on original, uncleaned specimens is a deep green-gold. Some also show very attractive medium to deep orange-gold overtones. Most 1855-O double eagles have been cleaned or dipped but there are a few known with especially pleasing natural color.
EYE APPEAL: This date generally has below average to average eye appeal. This is due to the fact that many have been cleaned or dipped and show mint-made surface defects. There are a small number of very attractive original pieces known in the EF45 to AU55 range and these usually sell for strong levels relative to current price guides.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: As on the 1854-O, there is a considerable amount of die polish seen within the letters. The crossbar on the left side of the A in STATES is weak.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known:
Variety One: The date is fairly small and placed midway between the truncation and the denticles. All examples have Slanting (or Italic) 5s in the date. The mintmark is placed very high in the field and almost touches the arrow feathers. It is positioned over the center of the N in TWENTY.
Donald E. Bently Collection - Heritage 1/2014:5517, $141,000
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