400 Esplanade Coin Album
V-1. high date, die crack thru stars 1-5. low 7 in date. vertical line at rock base on left. With a mintage of 1.38 million, the 1857-o is a relatively common date. Apparently a number were set aside in mint condition as Al Blythe's 1992 reference on the series only rates the '57-O as R.3 in Unc. From the #1 ranked, retired Sounder Type Set at NGC.
The New Orleans mint opened three years after Andrew Jackson signed legislation creating new branch mints at Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans. On April 9, 1838, the Philadelphia Mint shipped two pairs of dime dies to the newly opened branch mint, and the first coins, 30 dimes, were struck on May 8th. Dies were shipped from Philadelphia before the decision was made to add 13 stars to the obverse. As a result, all 1838-o half dimes and dimes are from the previous No Stars design. The 1838-o is not only the first branch mint dime in U.S. coinage history, but it is also the only branch mint issue of the No Stars type. Only 5 coins have achieved gem status at PCGS of the original mintage of 406,034. A total of 367,434 of Fortin 101 were struck in June and July 1838 and finally the remainder were struck in January 1839 as Fortin 102s.
Fortin 106a. The "Shattered Cobweb" reverse. While this coin has seen moderate circulation, the extensive circular reverse die cracks are still noticable on this rare and highly sought after variety. Unfortnuately my scans do not pick this up well, and perhaps they are not as dramatic as well preserved specimens. Most noticeable are the cracks through the bottom of the wreath and the upper right lettering. Star 5 is boldly repunched on the obverse.
Fortin 103: medium level date, open 5, with die chips seen about star 5, medium o. A-2, G101. With a limited original mintage of 480,000 coins and a poor rate of survival, the 1859-o is a scarce coin in all mint state grades. This well-struck example is adorned in emerald, citrine, and amythest hues Ex. Superior Worrell Collection Lot 374 Sept 1993.
Fortin 103: the obverse is shattered with heavy cracking though the left arrow and 1 extending up through the shield. Cracks extend around the entire periphery and rejoin liberty's left foot. The mintmark has been obliquely punched and the top 1/3 is not visible. According to Fortin, this is a very scarce variety. Mint State survivors are considerably more scarce than their Philadelphia counterpart, despite a mintage of 1.8 million.
Fortin 106a. O/O. The 8 & 9 are repunched at the bottom. The attribution is clinched as the remnant of an o is visible within the medium o. See small image. Heavy die clashing is seen at the right of lady liberty. This is the late die state as cracks are beginning to form on either side of the mint mark.
Briggs 2B. The Briggs 1A coins show a mintmark far to the left. 1A coins were also found in the famous New Orleans Hoard excavation of 1982 on Canal Street in the French Quarter. This is a highly attractive coin with rainbbow toning on the obverse that is most apparent at certain angles of light. No gems are known.
Briggs 2C. Leading up to 1853, few U.S. silver coins remained in circulation, because they were worth more melted than in their coined form. This was driven by the immense discovery of gold in California which lowered the market price of gold and forced silver higher. As described by Walter Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, this "...eventually [led] to a point where bullion dealers found they could make 'endless chain' profits by melting down silver coins bought for face value and resell the silver. All of the mints' output of silver vanished into hoarders' hands, and most of it went to bullion dealers; less and less silver reached the Mint for coinage, as reflected in the diminishing mintages of 1850-52." The Act of February 21, 1853 ordered a reduced weight in silver coins to discourage further melting. Quarter planchets would now weigh 96 grains compared with the former 103 1/8 grains (6.68 grams reduced to 6.22 grams). To distinguish these coins more easily, Mint Director George Eckert ordered James Longacre to modify the quarter by placing arrows at each side of the date with rays behind the eagle. Similar changes were made for the other denominations also. This design format for the quarters (and half dollars) lasted only one year. For the first time since establishment of the US Mint in 1793, the nation had an adequate supply of fractional coins of uniform quality, though with the side-effect that this workhorse issue was heavily circulated and few were set aside. Only 130 or so have been slabbed by PCGS and NGC (7/08). Only 2 gems are known to exist. This example has even patination and is quite well impressed. Only a small die crack is noted on the obverse extending to the rock at 7 o'clock. It's hard to see 15 points of wear on this coin. There are several rubs on the lower reverse surface of the slab that might be mistaken for wear. Certified by CAC. The attribution is not fully certain as the Type 2 obverse does not have the typical missing die chunk at liberty's neck, though no other obverse characteristics match type 1 or 3. Could this be a new variety???
The lustrous surfaces of this near-Gem O-mint half display a mix of low to medium intensity multicolored toning resting over both sides. A well executed strike brings out sharp definition on the design features, and just a few minute obverse ticks define the grade. "Halos," often found on this issue, are visible around the stars of this specimen. The halos around these devices were explained by Wiley and Bugert (1993) as the result of coinage dies being used as temporary master dies to create additional dies. The outlines around the various design elements represent the base of the punch being transferred to a new working coinage die.
The US Mint released its inventory of silver dollars in 1962-4. It is uncertain how many 60o dollars included but it is accepted that between 1k-6k were let go. The majority of 60o dollars are heavily abraded from rough handling during yearly mint accounting. The Bowers-Borckardt silver dollar Encyclopedia quotes Bruce Amspacher who wrote, "The average BU 1860-O dollar earned the nickname of 'Quaker Oats dollar,' because it looks like it was shot from guns."
This is one of three Morgan Silver Dollar issues, along with 03-o and 04-o, that had been considered rare prior to release of the Treasury Hoard of the 1960s. Of the 4.44 million 98-o dollars, a substantial percentage was set aside and eventually distributed through the Federal Reserve System in late 1962. Few, however, show the well preserved surfaces seen on this piece. This coin is all white and only has light grazes that show up amazing well on these high resolution scans.
Winter variety 2. The 1855-o is the final gold dollar issue from New Orleans and the only one that employs the Type Two or Small Indian Head design. Type One gold dollars had proven unpopular because the small size rendered it easily lost in pants pockets or purses. The Mint addressed this problem by increasing the planchet's diameter from 13 mm to 15 mm. As such, the planchet's depth was reduced to maintain weight and fineness standards. This measure had the unfortunate effect of making the coins extremely difficult to fully strike. Type Two dollars are generally seen with soft strikes, with the 1855-o perhaps better than average in this respect. Problems such as this caused the design to be abandoned after only three years. No gems are known to date.
Winter Variety 1. High date, wide fraction. The 39-o was the first gold coin produced at the New Orleans Mint, the only Classic Head issue, and the only gold issue with the mintmark on the obverse. Many were likely kept as souvenirs as a half dozen are known in near gem.
Winter variety 1. Ex: Bass. The one is buried in the dentils and is doubled at its base (Obv1). The Mint Mark is penetrated by arrow feathers and is centered over the fraction bar (RevA). The provenance is not on the holder but matches the Bass II 407 coin, formerly PCGS MS63 at the time of sale in October 1999. There is a copper spot on the reverse at the 2. Thank you Stephen Davidson for locating this coin.
Winter variety 2. The more common variety struck from lapped dies. The 1854-o is the first year of issue and the only $3 coin produced at the New Orleans branch mint. With a total mintage of 24,000, most of the coins were presumed to be released into circulation or melted. Only 2 mint state examples are currently slabbed by PCGS (an MS61 and an MS62). Though around 1000 are preserved in PCGS and NGC slabs, the popularity among us collectors make this a difficult date to locate in any grade.
Winter variety 3. MM is lower and tilted left, right shield line curves inward. Despite a mintage of 58,000, the 46-o is rarer than the 45-o (41,000). According to Doug Winter's book on New Orleans gold, only 4 or 5 uncs are known and the population figures at PCGS and NGC likely represent resubmission of the same few uncs. This coin has a lovely cameo effect with prooflike fields. Marks through the eagle's head and neck are on the holder.
Winter variety 2. High date with no reverse die cracks, scarce variety. At 110,000, the 93-o is the second most abundant half eagle minted in New Orleans. It is the most available half eagle in MS. No gems are known at PCGS. Most are heavily abraded or impaired from being shipped loosely in bags, with a number going directly to Europe.
Winter variety 1. The only known variety. Hundreds of these have been located overseas in the last decade according to Doug Winter. There is one interesting coin for this issue, possibly a specimen or proof strike. A note accompanies the coin, "First Gold Coined 1904, W.J.Bromphy, Coiner US Mint, $10.00 and $5.00" Interestingly, no gold half eagles are currently known for this date?!?!