The finest examples graded by PCGS are 2 AU-58's.
NGC Specimen-63. Ex -
Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc. "FUN Signature Sale", January 2002, Lot
4147, where it was described as follows: "1856-O $20 MS63 Specimen NGC.
Many specialists believe that this is the single most important New
Orleans Double Eagle in existence. It is also one of the most important
coins from this mint regardless of denomination. This 1856-O Double Eagle
is the finest example known by a wide margin. It is also a specimen
striking and certified as such by NGC. As an issue, the 1856-O needs
little introduction. It remains one of the few transcendent rarities among
19th century U.S. gold, recognized as such even by non-gold collectors.
The original mintage for this issue was a paltry 2,250 pieces, making the
1856-O one of the classic rarities in U.S. gold coinage. It is both the
rarest gold coin struck by the New Orleans mint, and the rarest regular
issue Liberty Head Double Eagle. The estimated number of survivors ranges
from 10-12 (Breen) to as high as 15-20 (Winter). A mere 3-5 pieces are
believed extant in the various AU grades, and this is the only
Uncirculated example known.
This coin has an appearance unlike any other 1856-O Double Eagle. While
weakness is generally found on O-mint Double Eagles from this era,
including the 1856-O, this coin shows an amazing full strike in all areas
and fully reflective fields, quite unlike the finish seen on other New
Orleans Twenties from this period. Each star has satiny luster and shows
shadowing, as though impressed with an extra blow from the die. Liberty's
hair details and the stars above the eagle are equally well brought up.
There is a bit of incomplete die polish along the top and bottom sides of
the right wing. This is a common occurrence on branch mint proof Dollars
in the Morgan series, and while it is not entirely similar to a
Philadelphia proof from this era, it is obviously a very special coin.
Clearly, a great deal of care went into its production. The satiny luster
over the devices plus the deeply mirrored fields produces a noticeable
cameo contrast on each side. Even casual inspection reveals that this coin
was produced differently from regular business strikes.
This coin has been submitted to both of the major grading services.
According to Superior's January 1995 catalog description,
"Superior submitted the coin to PCGS for grading. In a conversation with
PCGS's principal shareholder, Mr. David Hall, Larry Goldberg was told by
Mr. Hall that in his opinion the coin is definitely something special,
completely unlike regular issue New Orleans Double Eagles of the period.
Only because he (Hall) wanted to insure a conservative estimate was it
graded Mint State 63 by PCGS. (The service eschews the terms "Proof" or
"Specimen" designations on most branch mint issues except for the few
documented Proofs of which the mint has a record."
As a result, even though direct examination of the coin proves it was
produced under controlled circumstances and it cannot be other than a
special striking, PCGS would only certify it as an "MS63." NGC, on the
other hand, recognized the special nature of this piece and was willing to
certify it as such. There are, after all, other unquestionable proof New
Orleans gold coins from this era: the unique 1844-O Half Eagle and Eagle
that both trace their pedigree to the fabled Parmelee sale of 1890.
The October 2001 PCGS Population Report and the September NGC
Census Report indicate that three pieces have been certified. These,
however, all represent this single coin: two submissions to PCGS, and one
to NGC. Rick Montgomery, President of PCGS, has agreed to remove the two
MS63 listings from future editions of their report.
Concerning the purchase of this major rarity, Marc Emory recalled: "New
England Rare Coin Galleries was contacted by a family, then living in
Vermont. They inquired if we would be interested in purchasing a proof
1856-O Double Eagle. New England staff explained that no proofs were known
of this issue. The party on the other end of the line patiently explained
that, well, they had one, nonetheless. The New England staffer asked,
rhetorically, or so he thought, if the prospective seller was a descendent
of Bienvenu, the superintendent of the New Orleans Mint in the year 1856.
All sarcasm was quickly forgotten when the seller on the phone responded,
In order to identify this important rarity, we point out the following
surface irregularities which essentially "fingerprint" the coin. There are
two small planchet flakes seen in the exergual area, one below the 8 in
the date, the other at the top of the 5. Several others are located around
stars 4, 5, 8, 10, and 13, and in the hair just above the bun. We stress
that these are not post-striking imperfections, but small planchet flaws
frequently found on proof gold coins from this period. On the reverse, a
fine die crack runs from the rim through the D in the denomination and
ends at the curve of the scroll.
The answer to the questions about the exact circumstances surrounding the
striking of this coin may still be found in the New Orleans mint records
from 1856. Unfortunately, mint records from this era are very sketchy,
difficult to ferret out, and, in many cases, simply do not exist any
longer. This is the unquestionable highlight of the Eagle Collection and
it will, no doubt, become the centerpiece of a very important specialized
collection of New Orleans coinage.
This is only the second appearance of this coin at public auction since
its striking in 1856. A coin of tremendous importance to specialists and
easily one of the most significant coins, if not the most
significant coin, that will be offered this year.
Purchased from the New Orleans Mint at the time of issue by Mint
Superintendent Charles Bienvenu; from him the piece was passed to his
heirs; purchased by Marc Emory of New England Rare Coins directly from
Bienvenu's family in 1979; sold by James Halperin later that year to Larry
Demerer for approximately $215,000; sold to Superior for a reported
$312,500 in late 1980/early 1981; The Premier Auction Sale (Superior,
1/95), lot 1645, where it realized $203,500 as a PCGS MS63; subsequently
certified NGC MS63 Specimen."
Ex - Sotheby's / Stack's "The 'Dallas Bank' Collection" Auction,
October 29-30, 2001, Lot 16, illustrated
NGC AU-50. Ex -
"Magnificent Collection" - Heritage Numismatic Auctions "FUN Signature
Sale", January 2004, Lot 7247, sold for $143,750.00
"...net grade of Extremely
Fine". Ex - Superior Galleries' "Pre-Long Beach Coin
Sale" May 27-29, 2001, Lot 4170D, where it was described as follows:
"1856O About Uncirculated 50 Net Extremely Fine 45 due to severe
cleaning on both sides, otherwise a very attractive coin. We suggest
viewing this coin carefully. With a mintage of only 2,250 pieces, this
coin is very rare in all conditions. Usually missing from most
collections, this is an excellent opportunity to fill that hole with a
reasonably priced coin."
"The PCGS Population Report, January 2004" by The
Professional Coin Grading Service