Doug Winter: The 1854-O Large Date employs a date punch that was intended for silver dollars. According to Breen, it was first publicized in B. Max Mehl’s Atwater sale of 1946 but was almost certainly known before this. The date punch is so large it should more rightfully be called a Huge Date. It is by far the largest size date punch on any New Orleans eagle.
This is an interesting variety whose rarity has been overstated in the past. It is scarcer than the 1854-O Small Date in terms of total number known, but it is more available in higher grades due to a number being found in the Jackson Tennessee hoard in the early 1980s. It is one of the more available New Orleans eagles in higher grades but it is still very scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and rare in Uncirculated.
While scarcer than the 1854-O Small Date in terms of overall rarity, the Large Date is actually a more available coin in higher grades.
STRIKE: This variety comes with a distinctive appearance. A number have a peculiar “sunken” appearance on which the obverse looks concave. This weakness also causes the details at the center to be weak with poor definition noted on the curls around the face and below the ear. The stars are flat and often show little or no definition on the radial lines. The reverse tends to be quite weak at the center but the peripheral details are sharper. There are a small number of 1854-O Large Date eagles that are better struck without this sunken look. These coins are very scarce.
SURFACES: The surfaces are often heavily abraded and coins from the Jackson Tennessee hoard (which appears to be the source for many of the higher grade 1854-O Large Date eagles that have come onto the market in the past two decades: may show scratches or scuffmarks from careless excavation. I have seen at least two 1854-O Large Date eagles that had huge mint-made laminations on the reverse.
LUSTER: The luster is frosty in texture and is better than on most New Orleans eagles from the first part of this decade.
COLORATION: The coloration most often seen on this issue is a rich green-gold. Some have orange-gold shadings, especially towards the rim. There are more 1854-O Large Date eagles with original color than there are examples of the Small Date.
EYE APPEAL: The typical 1854-O Large Date has a somewhat sunken appearance and numerous marks, but is relatively well preserved with decent color and luster.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: On some pieces, a number of the stars are attached to the denticles by roughness in the die. Others show a prominent die spur that joins star seven to the board.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There are three major varieties known to me and I would not be surprised if others exist. There were over a dozen 1854-O Large Date eagles in the Bass collection and given his interest in varieties, this suggests that a number await (re)discovery.
Variety One: The 1 in the date is free of the bust and it slants slightly downwards. There are what appear to be traces of two misplaced digits in the base of the neck, directly above the 8 and the 5. The mintmark is thin and weakly impressed and placed high in the field. It is placed further to the left than on any other variety seen for this year.
Variety Two: The 1 in the date joins the bust and the date is fairly level. The base of the 1 shows light doubling. The obverse has a slightly sunken appearance which is distinctive to this variety. There is a prominent obverse die spur that joins the top point of star seven to a denticle above. The mintmark is heavy and placed lower than on Variety One. It is further to the right than on the last variety.
Variety Three: The 1 in the date is close to the bust but does not join it. The date is often lightly punched. Same reverse as on Variety One. This variety is sometimes seen with a die crack from the rim up through the right side of the 8 and on into the truncation.
This variety is occasionally found with reverse die rotation.
David Akers (1975/88): The 1854-O has virtually the same mintage as the 1853-O and 1854 but it is more common, all grades considered, than either of them. However, almost all known 1854-O Eagles are well worn with VF the predominant grade. In high grade, AU or uncirculated, the 1854-O is extremely rare and I have not personally seen a mint state piece.
This issue comes with both small and large dates. The latter is much the rarer of the two and is seldom available in any condition. The difference in date size is great (unlike the 1842 for example where the difference is rather small).