Doug Winter: The 1845-O is a bit more available than its comparably low mintage would suggest. This is because of a group of a few dozen pieces, mostly in the EF to low AU grade range that came onto the market in the early 1990s. As with all of the New Orleans eagles from this decade, the 1845-O becomes very rare as the grading scale is ascended. This year contains some of the most interesting varieties seen on any gold coins produced at the New Orleans mint and these are discussed in detail below.
The 1845-O eagle is not an especially scarce coin in VF or EF grades. It becomes quite scarce in properly graded AU50 to AU53 and it is rare in the higher AU grades. It is extremely rare in Uncirculated with no more than four to six currently known, including one very choice piece.
STRIKE: The strike seen on the most examples is typical of New Orleans eagles of this era. The obverse is generally well struck but nearly every coin known has some weakness on the curls around the face. The stars may not show radial line detail and those at the left are usually weaker than the ones at the right. The reverse is better struck with sharp detail seen on the eagle’s neck and wing feathers. There is sometimes a bit of weakness on the arrow feathers and olive leaves.
SURFACES: On many 1845-O eagles, the surfaces are abundantly abraded and these marks detract from the overall eye appeal. There are a number that are scratched or have been mishandled. A few show mint-made roughness in the planchet; an example of this was the Bass IV: 610 coin which had two noticeable areas of roughness on the obverse.
LUSTER: The luster is typically frosty with a somewhat subdued appearance. A few are known that are fairly reflective. This is a hard issue to locate with good luster, as even uncleaned original coins do not tend to have a “flashy” appearance.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep green-gold. Some are also seen with a rich orange-gold color. Until a few years ago, it was not terribly hard to locate an 1845-O eagle with natural color but the mania for bright gold coins has destroyed many of these. Today, most higher grade examples are bright and have been stripped of their color. Lower grade coins are still sometimes seen with original color.
EYE APPEAL: This date has average to slightly below average eye appeal. Most 1845-O eagles are well struck but show a good degree of wear and have heavy marks on the surfaces. In addition, many have been cleaned or dipped at one time.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: As a result of die lapping, the curls on the back of the neck are partially detached and appear to float.
MAJOR VARIETIES: This is an especially fertile year for die varieties. I know of the following five varieties and would not be surprised if others exist:
Variety One: The 84 in the date is repunched downwards. There are die scratches that run down through the TY in LIBERTY. The first stripe in the second set of vertical stripes is clearly broken at the top. The mintmark is low and placed directly above the N in TEN. Breen-6869. A common variety.
Variety Two: The obverse is the same as on the last. The mintmark is placed above the E and the N in TEN. Breen-6869. Scarcer than Variety One.
Variety Three: The 4 in the date is repunched far to the left. A vertical patch of roughness can be seen within the loop of the 5 but this does not appear to be consistent with a 4. In the first edition of this book I suggested that this variety was in fact a “Large Date over Small Date,” and I still believe that this is the best explanation.
The lines in the shield on the reverse are perfect. On this variety, the mintmark is placed fairly high in the field and is located midway between the E and the N in TEN. This variety is sometimes designated as “Repunched Date” by PCGS. Breen-6871, where erroneously listed as an “1845/44-O.” A scarcer variety than #1, but still not rare.
Variety Four: Blundered obverse die. The date was first punched well far to the right and then corrected. There are strong remnants of the 8 and the 5 visible below light magnification with the 8 between the existing 8 and 4 and the 5 to the right of the existing 5. The original 8 and the existing 8 are the same size and on the same plane, while the upper flag of the previous 5 is considerably higher than that of the existing 5. There are some readily visible raised horizontal lines that run out from the rear of the original punch of the 5 that are the remnants of a crude effacement. On the reverse, the mintmark is centered over the N and there is a hollow area atop the second group of vertical shield lines.
This variety is spectacular and extremely rare. I am aware of just two pieces: Bass III: 593 (now in the Frank Patty collection and graded AU55 by PCGS) and Heritage 9/05: 4749 (now in a California collection). Unlisted in Breen.
Variety Five: Normal Date. There are no signs of repunching on any of the digits. The mintmark is positioned above the N in TEN. Breen-6868. This variety was once believed to be common but it is actually very scarce.
David Akers (1975/88): The 1845-O is a rare date in any condition, more rare than the 1842-O, 1843-O or 1844-O and similar in rarity to the 1846-O. The typical specimen is VF or EF at best. AU examples are very rare and mint state specimens are extremely rare; at most two or three uncs are known, none of which are especially choice.