Doug Winter: The 1904-O has the second highest mintage of any With Motto eagle from this mint and it is the second most available issue, trailing only the 1903-O. Hundreds of examples have been found in overseas sources in the past decade.
The 1904-O is the second most common With Motto New Orleans eagle. It is not often seen in grades below AU55 and it is easy to locate in grades up to and including MS62. It is scarce in properly graded MS63 and rare in MS64. I am aware of around a half dozen Gems including one possible Proof.
One 1904-O eagle exists which offers a convincing case for its being a Branch Mint proof or, at the very least, a Specimen Strike. This coin is incredibly well struck and it has a rich satiny finish which is actually somewhat similar in appearance and texture to that seen on the 1909 and 1910 Satin Finish proof gold coins. Interestingly, this coin is accompanied by an envelope which reads as follows:
“First Gold Coined 1904, W.J. Brophy, Coiner U.S. Mint, $10.00 and $5.00” (Author’s Note: No 1904-O half eagles were struck).
STRIKE: This date is not as well produced as the 1903-O but it still shows a better strike than the New Orleans eagles from the 1890’s. Most examples are weak at the central obverse on the curls around the face of Liberty. The stars also may show weakness, especially the fifth through eighth and the final two or three. The reverse is usually very well struck with full detail on the legs and feather tips.
SURFACES: The 1904-O eagle is often seen with very heavily abraded surfaces. There are often clusters of deep, detracting marks seen in the fields. Some pieces exist that show better quality surfaces with fewer severe abrasions noted.
LUSTER: Two types of luster are seen on this date. The type seen more often is frosty and better than average, with a rich mint bloom that is similar to that seen on Philadelphia eagles of this era. A smaller number are known which are prooflike and some of these are quite reflective. Prooflike 1904-O eagles are typically very heavily abraded and have poor eye appeal as a result.
COLORATION: Original uncleaned examples often show very attractive coloration. Hues seen on the 1904-O eagle range from medium orange-gold to deep green-gold and rose. There are still a good number of original pieces available to collectors.
EYE APPEAL: The 1904-O has better eye appeal than most New Orleans eagles of the With Motto type. The typical piece is well struck and lustrous with decent color. Most pieces are abraded but with some patience, the collector should be able to find a pleasing example in the MS61 to MS63 range.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are no important die characteristics seen on either the obverse or the reverse.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known:
Variety One: The date is about midway in the field between the truncation and the denticles. The reverse is the same as on the 1903-O eagle.