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The Wind River Collection - The Number One Finest Set of All Time

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About This Set: The coins of New Orleans represent a city that is rich in history and critical to the westward expansion of the United States. Located near the mouth of the Mississippi River this city was vital to the commerce of the United States especially before the Civil War and the advent of the transcontinental railroad. Collecting coins from the New Orleans mint did not even occur to me while growing up in the 1960s because they seemed so common. Millions of silver dollars were being released by the government and many had been minted in New Orleans. Some dates, such as the 1903-O went from very rare to common in a relatively short time. Worn Barber coins still occasionally found in circulation often had that boring "O" mintmark. However, more than twenty years ago while trying to complete a US type set, I reached a budgetary impasse where I only needed the most costly issues so I decided to add the Branch mints to my type set. Little did I know that this would completely change my collecting interests. I realized that many of the New Orleans issues were quite rare even though they were not very expensive at the time. Most issues before the Civil War had been placed into circulation and stayed there. Even AU coins for many dates were hard to find, but not always particularly expensive. Finding the coins became the challenge instead of finding the money to buy them. Once I started collecting New Orleans coins, I realized that they were little studied and could provide many possibilities for investigation, especially the early issues, because they often show the effects of tough environmental conditions and limited resources at the Mint.

The Wind River Collection

Image Item PCGS # Date Denom Grade PCGS # Pop PCGS # Pop Higher Pop Pop Higher Comments
Three Cent Silver 3665 1851-O 3CS MS64 114 93 11493
Liberty Seated Half Dime, No Stars 4314 1838-O H10C MS62 5 8 58
Many collectors consider the no stars seated coins to be one of the more beautiful designs ever used on our circulating coinage. The New Orleans no stars half dime is a one-year type coin that is quite scarce in all grades and much tougher to find than the 1838-O dime. Mintage was only about 70,000. Two varieties are known. The variety in this collection is a V-1 with the date level or nearly so. The date on the V-2 slopes up from left to right. In addition, the V-2 usually has extensive die rust on the lower part of the obverse and should be graded based on the reverse. The V-2 has been considered rarer than the V-1, but in uncirculated condition the two varieties are comparable in rarity and, of course, quite scarce.
Liberty Seated Half Dime, No Drapery 4322 1840-O H10C MS65 1 4
Even though this variety is know as the "no drapery" design, the only significant difference between it and the "no stars" design are the stars themselves not the drapery. The Liberty motif is the same. This 1840-O no drapery half dime came from the Benson collection in 2002 where it had stored for 57 years since being purchased from Ira Reed in 1945 for five dollars. The coin subsequently became part of the the comprehensive Gene Gardner collection until it was added to this set. It may be the finest known 1840-O half dime and currently ranks as the finest graded by PCGS. The toning on this half dime is quite colorful and typical of many silver coins from the Benson collection that were stored in National Coin Album pages for more than half of a century.
Liberty Seated Half Dime, Drapery 4340 1848-O H10C MS66 11 7 4024
The 1848-O half dime it is one of the more common dates of this type. This coin is a Valentine-2 (V-2) with a small O mint mark which is the scarcest of the three mint mark sizes. It was purchased from the Gardner collection and is one of the finest know half dimes of this date. A landmark article on the eight different 1848-O die varieties was published by Bill Harmon in the Gobrecht Journal (#56) making this date one of the more popular ones to collect by die variety.
Liberty Seated Half Dime, Arrows 4361 1855-O H10C MS65 9 3 2513
This half dime was purchased from the Gardner IV auction and is a Valentine-1a variety. These coins were produced for three years at the New Orleans and the Philadelphia mints. All three New Orleans issues are scarce in high grade with this date, the 1855-O, being the rarest with arrows type and having the lowest mintage. As a late die state coin, it shows extensive cracking and rust indicating imminent failure of the die.
Liberty Seated Half Dime, Legend 4378 1860-O H10C MS66 9 4 94
The 1860-O half dime is yet another New Orleans type coin produced for just one year. However, unlike many of the other unique year New Orleans type coins it is one of the more common half dimes and relatively available in MS-65 and even higher.
Liberty Seated Dime, No Stars 4564 1838-O 10C MS64 23 8 238
This 1838-O dime is yet another one-year New Orleans type coin. As with the 1838-O half dime it's cameo-like design without stars is greatly appreciated by many collectors. Two varieties are known: one with a repunched mintmark (Fortin-101 or F-101) and one without a repunched mintmark (F-102). This, is the variety without the repunched mintmark. The 1838-O dime becomes scarcer in higher grades, but it is much more common than it's little sister, the 1838-O half dime in all grades.
Liberty Seated Dime, No Drapery 4574 1840-O 10C MS64 3 1 812
This "no drapery" dime is one of my favorite coins in my collection because it really jump started my interest in collecting the coins of New Orleans. Its rarity, beauty, and formerly underrated value made me aware that I could still afford to add some of the finest New Orleans coins to my collection, if I could just find them. In addition, I consider the no drapery design and the no stars coinage to be the finest examples of seated coinage. Walter Breen, in his Encyclopedia, provides some additional entertaining and acerbic comments about subsequent changes wrought by Hughes on these early artistic Gobrecht designs. Eleven die varieties of this date are currently known. This 1840-O dime variety is a Fortin-106 (F-106) with a medium O mintmark. It is the finest known example of this variety and one of the finest known of the date.
Liberty Seated Dime, Drapery 4615 1857-O 10C MS66 8 4 2310
This date is one of the commonest New Orleans seated dimes, but it is not usually encountered above MS-65. It was purchased at the Gardner IV auction.
Liberty Seated Dime, Arrows 4604 1853-O 10C MS64 3 1 1911
Only two dates are available for this New Orleans type coin: 1853-O and 1854-O. My coin is one of the few uncirculated 1853-O dimes know today and is, by far, the rarest date of this type. It was the lowest mintage, but it is much scarcer than the mintage figures would suggest.
Liberty Seated Dime, Legend 4707 1891-O 10C MS66 12 3 123
The "with legend" seated dime was minted at Philadelphia for 32 years, but was only minted at New Orleans for two years: 1860 and 1891, the first and last years of the design type. The 1860-O dime is quite rare and virtually unobtainable in uncirculated condition, but the 1891-O is readily available in all grades through gem condition. This coin was purchased from the Gene Gardner auction which I consider the best Seated coin collection ever assembled. Gerry Fortin, in his comprehensive Liberty Seated Dime Variety Web-Book, has documented 32 different 1891-O die varieties with more yet to be published. Many of these dimes have dramatic cracks, die clashing, cuds and other indications of die damage apparently due to mint employee inexperience and coin presses designed for larger coins, primarily Morgan dollars.
Barber Dime 4852 1909-O 10C MS66+ 3 3 2243
The last year of dime production, or any coin production, at the New Orleans Mint was 1909. The mint had been reopened in 1879 primarily to manufacture silver dollars, but other denominations were sporadically produced until 1909 when the mint was closed. Barber dimes, quarters, and half dollars were minted at New Orleans in 1909 along with the Indian Head half eagle. For New Orleans Barber dimes, the 1909-O is a slightly better date, but not nearly as rare as most of those produced in the 19th century. This 1909-O dime came from the "Lily Nicole" collection.
Liberty Seated Quarter, No Drapery 5393 1840-O 25C MS63 6 2 62
Quarters were produced at the New Orleans mint for the first time in 1840. Both "with drapery" and "no drapery" varieties were minted. As with the other seated denominations, I consider the no drapery coins to be a more aesthetically appealing design than the with drapery coins. Liberty is much more lifelike and detailed, the stars are smaller and less intrusive and, for the 1840-O no drapery quarter in particular, the denticles on the perimeter of the design are nearly non-existent and do not intrude on the designs. The 1840-O no drapery quarter is quite common in low grades, but becomes quite scarce to rare as higher uncirculated grades are reached.
Liberty Seated Quarter, No Motto 5398 1840-O 25C MS63 7 11 7972
Mintage of with drapery quarters began at the New Orleans mint in 1840 with a very small estimated mintage of only 43 thousand coins. This mintage should make it one of the rarest New Orleans quarters produced before the Civil War, but such is not the case. This mintage is either dramatically underestimated and/or a hoard of coins such as those unearthed on October 30, 1982 in New Orleans provided enough coins to make them reasonably available today. This particular coin was part of the Jimmy Hayes collection sold in 1985 and cataloged as a "gem brilliant uncirculated" coin. It had previously been part of the Speir collection auctioned in 1974. The Jimmy Hayes sale apparently took place to help finance the successful campaign of Mr. Hayes for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1986.
Liberty Seated Quarter, Arrows and Rays 5428 1853-O 25C MS63 2 4 24
The 1853-O quarter is a one-year type coin minted in both Philadelphia and New Orleans. Arrows were added at the date on the obverse and rays were added around the eagle on the reverse to indicate the weight reduction that occurred in 1853. Both are quite common in circulated grades, but the New Orleans quarter is much harder to fine in higher grades because most New Orleans coins went into circulation and circulated extensively.
Liberty Seated Quarter, Arrows No Motto 5433 1854-O 25C MS63 6 14 717
After 1853, the rays around the eagle were removed from the reverse of the quarters and the half dollars, but the arrows at the date were retained for another two years. This "with arrows" variety was produced at both the New Orleans and Philadelphia mints for 1854 and 1855, and for 1855 at the San Francisco mint. As usual, the New Orleans issues are harder to find in higher grades than the Philadelphia issues with the 1855-O being very scarce in lower grades to very rare in uncirculated grades.
Liberty Seated Quarter, Motto 5525 1891-O 25C MS65 2 1 21
The "with motto" seated quarter was produced at the New Orleans mint for only one year, 1891, and in very limited quantities (68 thousand mintage). As such, it is scarce in lower circulated grades and rare in AU to uncirculated grades. This coin came from the Gardner collection and is tied for the second highest graded by PCGS.
Barber Quarter 5617 1897-O 25C MS66+ 17 3442
This coin has a succinct but distinguished history that starts with its purchase from the New Orleans Mint in November 1897 by J.M. Clapp. The Clapp collection was purchased in its entirety by Louis Eliasberg and became part of the first and only complete collection of US coins ever assembled. It was subsequently added to the Gene Gardner collection and finally added to this New Orleans type set. Barber quarters were produced at the New Orleans mint from the inception of the series in 1892 though 1909 when the Mint ceased production of all coins. No Barber quarters can truly be termed rare, but many of the New Orleans issues are quite scarce including this 1897-O.
Capped Bust Half Dollar 6181 1839-O 50C AU55 37 60 3760
This is the only Bust coin produced for ciculation at the New Orleans mint. For years it seemed like an 1839-O half dollar could be found at any coin show, but it has been much harder to find in recent times. I suspect that there is some hoarding this date. In Jules Reiver's guide on reeded edge bust half dollars he described two die marriages for the 1839-O half dollar. A supplement later listed a third variety. The first variety, JR-1, usually with encircling die cracks through the obverse stars and the reverse lettering, is by far the most common variety. This coin, which is a JR-2 is much scarcer, but can still be found with diligent searching. Early die state coins of the JR-2 variety are usually found with a 180 degree "reverse" rotation (aka medal turn). In 2012 Dick Graham published "A Registry of Die Varieties of Reeded Edge Half Dollars" that included an additional two varieties that are/were unique based on the author's extensive research up to the publication date.
Liberty Seated Half Dollar, No Motto 6249 1845-O 50C MS64 7 5 236133
Seated half dollars were minted every year from from 1840 through 1861 when the mint was taken over by the State of Louisiana and subsequently by the Confederate States of America. This 1845-O half dollar was previously part of the John Jay Pittman collection one of the finer coin collections assembled in the 20th century. For much of the 19th century, half dollars were the predominant large denomination silver coin produced in the United States. As such, most dates are not particularly rare including those minted in New Orleans. Bill Bugert, the author of multiple books on seated half dollar varieties has documented 20 different die marriages for the 1845 half dollars and more than 900 Seated half dollars from New Orleans.
Liberty Seated Half Dollar, Arrows and Rays 6276 1853-O 50C MS64 7 1 71
As with the 1853-O quarter, this is a one-year only type coin that was produced at both the New Orleans and the Philadelphia mint. Arrows were added at the date and rays around the eagle on the reverse to indicate the weight reduction that was implemented in 1853. Both dates are quite common in circulated grades, but the New Orleans half dollar is much harder to find in higher grades because most New Orleans coins went into circulation and stayed there.
Liberty Seated Half Dollar, Arrows No Rays 6283 1855-O 50C MS65 21 10 4229
As with the quarter the rays on the reverse were removed in 1854, but the arrows remained through 1855. The "with arrows" half dollars were produced for for two years at the New Orleans and Philadelphia mints and one year at the San Francisco mint. Unlike many New Orleans coins the 1854-O and 1855-O half dollars are quite common in uncirculated condition. This is one of the few New Orleans type coins where both dates are more common that the Philadelphia issues.
Barber Half Dollar 6517 1909-O 50C MS65 10 4 175158
Like the Barber dimes and quarters no circulating issues can really be considered rare. The rarest New Orleans Barber half the 1896-O which rivals the 1904-S as the rarest date in the series. One of my favorite dates is the 1909-O represented in this collection. It was the final year of production at the New Orleans mint, which had apparently outlived its usefulness for producing coins.
Liberty Seated Dollar 6950 1860-O $1 MS64 27 9 6014
The 1860-O dollar is the most common date of all Seated dollars and had one of the higher mintages in the series. This was a common date before the great silver dollar release, which peaked in the early 1960s. Even though relatively common before this time, several bags of 1860-O dollars were released during the great sliver release of the 1950-S and the 1960s making it the prototypical Seated dollar type coin. However, in MS-64, this coin become scarce.
Morgan Dollar 7162 1885-O $1 MS67+ 22 1 487
More than three million Morgan dollars have been graded by PCGS. Virtually all of these coins never circulated and are therefore graded uncirculated. They exist because the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 required the purchase on many millions of ounces of silver, which were used to mint millions of unneeded silver dollars subsequently stored for the better part of a century. For all intents and purposes the New Orleans Mint was primarily a silver dollar production facility when it reopened in 1879 by producing more than 169 million Morgan dollars through 1904. No Morgan dollar date is rare when compared to all other New Orleans coins, yet at a certain point they become condition rarities. For example, the 1885-O Morgan dollar in this collection is graded MS-67+. Currently (June 2015) more than 170 thousand coins of this date that have been graded as uncirculated. Only 17 are graded MS-67+ and one is graded MS-68 making this coin a "rarity" for this date and for Morgan dollars in general.
One Dollar Gold, Type One 7512 1850-O G$1 MS63 8 2 183159
One Dollar Gold, Type Two 7535 1855-O G$1 MS62 16 13 1613
In 1854 the Mint changed the design of the gold dollar and increased the diameter to 15 millimeters. The New Orleans mint produced its last and only gold dollars of this design in the following year. These 1855-O gold dollars were often weakly struck due to the thin planchets which can be seen in this specimen on the 8 of of the 1855 date.. This date is scarce even though not as rare as the Charlotte and Dahlonega issues. This type was short-lived, only being minted for three years, apparently due to the design which made it hard to produce well-struck coins.
Classic Head $2-1/2 Gold 7701 1839-O $2.50 AU58 32 25 3225
The 1839-O quarter eagle is another one-year type for the New Orleans mint with two varieties: the close fraction and the wide fraction. John McCloskey, the recently retired president of the Liberty Seated Collector's Club for 40 years, has studied classic quarter eagles for many years. He confirmed that all rotated reverse 1839-O quarter eagles, as this one is, are the close fraction reverse which is a bit scarcer. Since this rotated reverse was the normal mode of production for this die marriage and for several other die marriages during the early years of coin production at the New Orleans mint, these coins should not be considered errors.
Liberty Head $2-1/2 Gold 7731 1843-O $2.50 MS63+ 1 5 112
$3 Gold 7971 1854-O $3 AU58 25 3 253
This coin was first offered to me a number of years ago and though it was the nicest and most original AU-58 I had ever seen it was simply unaffordable at the time. Happily, the owner, David Patton, decided not sell it and stashed it away. Then a couple of years ago I stopped to talk to him and he told me that he had decided to sell it. It became the penultimate coin for my New Orleans type set. This coin is a variety 1 with a bold mintmark and date (from Doug Winters "Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint 1839-1909").
Liberty Head $5 Gold, No Motto 8200 1840-O $5 MS62 4 1 3518
As with the Liberty head quarter eagle, the no motto half eagle was minted in 12 different years starting with the 1840-O and ending with the 1857-O, but the years are somewhat different. This is the Eliasberg-Bass coin with a small O mintmark. It is my favorite New Orleans half eagle date because it was the first year that they were produced and because of the small letters reverse which is not quite as crowded as the large letter reverses.
Liberty Head $5 Gold, Motto 8385 1893-O $5 MS63 14 1 182
When I first started collecting New Orleans coins, I tended to consider Liberty half eagles and eagles together because they are essentially the same design and differ primarily by denomination. This is where the similarity ends, at least for New Orleans issues. There are only three dates for the with motto Liberty half eagles, but sixteen for the eagles. Less than 600 half eagles have been certified by PCGS as of June 2015 with more than 10 times that amount certified for the with motto eagles. The 1892-O is by far the rarest of the three dates and the 1893-O is the most common. In MS-63 the 1893-O, which is represented in this set, is quite scarce and the other dates are rare. Higher grades for this type are virtually non-existent.
Indian Head $5 Gold 8515 1909-O $5 AU58 115 80 11580
The 1909-O half eagle is the most expensive Indian half eagle and one of the rarest dates. It is also one of the most expensive New Orleans half eagles, but it is the most common O mint half eagle based on the PCGS population reports (where rarer dates are often over represented due to resubmissions with their inherently higher value). This apparent anomaly is easily explainable by the high popularity of Indian half eagles and by the 1909-O's iconic status as the only twentieth century New Orleans half eagle and the last gold coin production by the New Orleans mint.
Liberty Head $10 Gold, No Motto 8607 1851-O $10 MS61 9 3 3734
The no motto eagles were minted at the New Orleans mint in every year from 1841 through 1860. This 1851-O no motto eagle is one of the more common dates yet as with so many other New Orleans coins very few exist in uncirculated condition like this coin.
Liberty Head $10 Gold, Motto 8730 1894-O $10 MS63 12 2 471118
The "with motto" eagles are one of the few New Orleans gold type coins that are regularly available in uncirculated grades apparently due to significant numbers that had been stored in Europe and "rediscovered" in recent years. As such the prices are quite reasonable for most dates after 1883. However, most of these coins are MS-60 to MS-62. They quickly become scarce to rare starting with MS-63 due to their weight and the softness of the gold alloy causing numerous bagmarks during their long visit abroad.
Liberty Head $20 Gold, No Motto 8910 1853-O $20 AU55 30 15 205164
Many of the early New Orleans double eagles are heavily marked, hairlined, or just outright scuffy. This date is refreshingly free of marks. The 1853-O is the third most common double eagle, but it is still much scarcer than either the 1851-O or the 1852-O.
Liberty Head $20 Gold, Motto 8990 1879-O $20 AU58 5 2 52
As with thirteen other New Orleans type coins, this one is represented by only one year of production: 1879. The mintage of 2,325 pieces is the second lowest for all New Orleans double eagles and the lowest total mintage for any New Orleans type coin. This was the ultimate coin needed for my New Orleans type set. I had owned one previously, but could not get it graded as a problem free coin so I finally sold it. However, this coin showed up at Stack's several years ago and I was able to purchase it to complete my type set.