Estimated grade. Ex. Wilson-Reuter; Stacks (1959) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $16500
David Akers (1975/88): This is the first of a trio of rare New Orleans Mint Half Eagles with comparably low mintages. All have appeared at auction approximately the same number of times but the 1855-O has been offered a few more times in AU or Unc. than the other two. This date actually appeared at auction less often, all grades combined, than any of the more popular C or D mint coins after 1842, including the high priced 1861-C and 1861-D. Almost all known specimens are in the Fine to EF range and I have never personally seen anything better than AU.Doug Winter: The final three No Motto half eagles from New Orleans are all characterized by low original mintage figures. The 1855-O is the scarcest of this trio and is, in fact, among the hardest half eagles from this mint to locate.
The 1855-O half eagle is scarce in all grades. It is typically seen in EF and lower and AU examples are very scarce. In the middle to higher range of AU, the 1855-O is rare and it is very rare with just five or six known in Uncirculated.
STRIKE: The quality of strike seen on the 1855-O is typical of most New Orleans half eagles from this era. The obverse is the weaker of the two sides with some flatness often seen on the curls surrounding the face of Liberty. On many coins, the stars at the left appear to be more flat than the ones on the right. The reverse is generally sharp with minor weakness seen on the lower neck feathers and the upper portions of the eagle’s legs. Some 1855-O half eagles (Pittman: 1010 and others) are weakly impressed on the mintmark.
SURFACES: Virtually every known example is very heavily abraded. Many 1855-O half eagles have been cleaned at one time and show hairlines as a result. I have seen a number that have reddish spots on the surfaces.
LUSTER: The luster has a different texture than on other New Orleans half eagles of this era. Most seen are satiny and somewhat frost but they do not have the rich frost seen on the 1854-O or 1856-O. A few are known that are semi-prooflike but these are usually very heavily abraded and unattractive.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a medium to deep green-gold hue. There are actually more pieces with original color than one might expect, but these are still not easy to locate.
EYE APPEAL: The 1855-O half eagle is generally seen with inferior eye appeal. This primarily due to the fact that most pieces are very heavily abraded.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are no significant die characteristics seen on the obverse; the reverse characteristics are described below.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There appear to be two varieties known; it is possible that these are the same variety but different die states with the second the result of die polishing.
Variety One: The mintmark is very large with a large opening. It is placed somewhat high and is over the VE in FIVE. The reverse stripes are normal.
This is the more common of the two varieties
Variety Two: The first stripe in the first set of vertical stripes is thin and misshapen at the center. The second stripe in the second set is very thin at the top and appears broken.
This is the scarcer of the two varieties.