PCGS grade. Ex. Stacks Sale (1958) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $715
Doug Winter: The 1857-O half eagle is a bit more available than the 1855-O and the 1856-O, but it is a rarer coin in high grades. This was the last half eagle produced at this mint prior to the Civil War and production of this denomination would not resume until 1892.
The 1857-O half eagle is scarce in all grades it is most often seen in VF and EF. It is very scarce in the lower AU grades although it is a bit more available than the 1855-O and the 1856-O. It becomes very rare in AU58 and it is extremely rare in Uncirculated with just three to five known. The finest of these grades MS63 while the others are MS60 to MS61.
STRIKE: The quality of strike seen on the 1857-O is slightly better than on the 1855-O and 1856-O. The obverse is generally well-detailed at the center with some minor weakness on the curls around the face. The stars are irregularly detailed with the examples on the left typically sharp and the ones on the right showing less sharpness on the radial lines. The top of the head is sometimes weak as well. The reverse is the sharper of the two sides with good detail seen on the eagle’s neck feathers, legs and talons.
SURFACES: Nearly every 1857-O half eagle that I have seen is very heavily abraded. Because of the fact that some examples are slightly prooflike and reflective, the severity of these marks appears exaggerated. I have seen a few pieces that had mint-made planchet defects.
LUSTER: Many higher grade examples are frosty but some are semi-prooflike and have a considerably different “look” than seen on the 1855-O or 1856-O. The luster is usually affected by the deep abrasion that are so commonly seen on this issue.
COLORATION: The natural coloration for this issue is a medium to deep green-gold hue. I have also seen a few that had a more orange-gold color. There are not many pieces remaining that have not been cleaned or dipped at one time and examples with nice original color are worth a strong premium.
EYE APPEAL: The eye appeal on many is below average due to the fact that the surfaces are so heavily abraded. The typical 1857-O half eagle has relatively good detail, some remaining luster and bright, unnatural surfaces which are the result of a recent scrubbing.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: The bottom portion of the second stripe in the first pair of vertical stripes is broken.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is just a single variety known:
Variety One: The date is large and placed high in the field with the right edge of the 7 close to the neck but not touching. The mintmark is far to the right and completely to the right of the arrow feather. It is positioned above the E in FIVE.David Akers (1975/88): The 1857-O is the last New Orleans Mint Half Eagle of this No Motto type and the third in a trio of very rare O Mint coins from 1855 to 1857. High grade examples better than EF are essentially non-existent and the date is actually very seldom offered in any condition. I have never seen a strictly uncirculated piece but one or two are reported.
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