1856-O Double Eagle Leads $17.7 Million Heritage Long Beach Coin Auction

by Heritage Auctions on June 2, 2009 · 0 comments

Chinese Year of the Dragon 2000 Yuan Kilo Gold leads World Coins with $115,000; post-auction buying continues, expected to push total past $18 million

DALLAS, TX – When the hammer came down on the dramatic 1856-O $20 double eagle on Friday night, May 29, during Heritage Auction Galleries’ Signature® Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction, the $1,437,500 total (including 15% Buyer’s Premium) elicited a spontaneous ovation from the buzzing crowd in the Long Beach Convention Center.

1856-O Double Eagle

The combined totals for the Rare U.S. Coins and World Coins auction in Heritage’s annual start of summer event in California was approaching $18 million total as of Monday, June 1, with post-auction buying continuing to push the total even higher.


"To say that we’re pleased with these results is an understatement," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auction Galleries. "Everyone seems to be scrambling to figure out if the overall economy is improving or worsening; one thing is for certain, though: high quality rare U.S. and World coins are selling as well as ever and still provide one of the surest investment opportunities in the market."


The 1856-O double eagle – certified Specimen-63 by PCGS – is the rarest New Orleans-minted double eagle, the finest known example of this famous American coin, and it certainly lived up to its billing. At more than $1.4 million, it is the most ever paid at auction for a New Orleans double eagle – or for any New Orleans-minted coin. Many specialists believe that this is the single most important New Orleans double eagle in existence, and one of the most important O-mint coins of any denomination.

The seven figure price is even more impressive when you consider the prices realized journey this particular coin has taken at Heritage Auction Galleries alone, where it has been sold twice before, bringing $310,500 in 2002 and $542,800 in 2004.


"Only 19 coins have ever sold at auction for more than this one," said Rohan, "and none of those were struck in New Orleans. Heritage is honored to have sold the first million-dollar piece of Southern branch mint gold. While the value of this coin is important, though, the sheer beauty of this piece cannot be overlooked. By any standard it’s a work of art."


Nor did the double eagle provide the only fireworks for the night on the U.S. Coin side.

An extremely rare 1836 P$1 Name Below Base, Judd-63 Restrike, Pollock-63, R.8, PR62 NGC from The Frank M. Stirling Collection – one of only three known – the Farouk-Baldenhofer specimen wowed the collective live and Internet audiences with a $149,500 price tag, while another coin from The Stirling Collection, a fiery copper 1876 T$1 Trade Dollar, Judd-1476, Pollock-1629, R.8, PR65 http://coins.ha.com/common/images/star.gifRed Cameo NGC realized $126,500. The coin, prized as much for its lustrous and deep coloring as much as for its being one of only two such pieces known, is undoubtedly the finest existing 1876 copper Trade dollar.

Year of the Dragon 2000 Yuan Kilo GoldOn the World Coin auction side of the Long Beach event, the ever-surging Chinese economy proved its influence on the coin market as an extremely rare and popular People’s Republic gold 2000 Yuan 2000, KM1327, Choice Proof, Year of the Dragon issue – a large and impressive coin by any standard – exceeded pre-auction estimates to realize $115,000.


"The year of the Dragon 2000 Yuan is a magnificent coin," said Rohan, "fully deserving of its now elevated status. There are only 15 of these in existence, with this one being number 10."


Further highlights from the Rare U.S. Coins Auction include, but are not limited to:

1942 1C Cent, Judd-2079, Pollock-2076, R.8, PR66 PCGS:

Desirable because of the rarity of its striking, its experimental aluminum alloy and its magnificent color, this coin is certainly one of the most fascinating experimental pieces to enter the market in several years. The pattern coinage of 1942-1943 is an under-researched and truly deserving area of 20th century U.S. numismatics.

Realized: $126,500


1878 $1 Morgan Dollar, Judd-1553, Pollock-1730, Unique(?), PR64 Red and Brown NGC, from The Frank M. Stirling Collection:

This pattern is almost certainly unique, as the only known record of an example dates to the King Farouk Sale in February 1954, where lot 1989 was described as “1878, a similar pattern in copper, A.W. 1561 A. Extremely Fine, prettily toned and probably unique.” Unfortunately, like so many of the King Farouk coins, that lot was unplated in the catalog. While the grade of Extremely Fine and the description of “prettily toned” seem counterintuitive, many of the Farouk patterns were conservatively graded Extremely Fine, while today they are known to be considerably nicer. Only this single example has been certified by NGC, and PCGS has never graded a Judd-1553.

Realized: $109,250


1866-S $20 No Motto AU58 PCGS:

The year 1866 saw the addition of the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" to the double eagle denomination, a result of the upsurge in religious belief during the Civil War. All die production for the branch mints, until the latter part of the 20th century, was done at the Mother Mint in Philadelphia. So it was no problem to incorporate the reference to God on P-mint dies; San Francisco, on the other hand – where this coin was minted – had to either wait for new dies, or reuse an old reverse die. According to Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia, six 1866-dated obverses were shipped from Philadelphia in November 1865, but the new reverses bearing IN GOD WE TRUST were not shipped until March 1866. Meanwhile, in February 1866, a mintage of double eagles was accomplished with the obverse dies paired with reused leftover dies from 1865. The mintage of No Motto 1866-S double eagles has been estimated at 120,000 coins.

Realized: $103,500


1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1833, R.3, PR61 Cameo PCGS:

The stella was better-received as a pattern coin than as an idea for an international currency, and the 1879-dated Flowing Hair stellas were immensely popular with government officials. As a result, the 1879 Flowing Hair stella is one of the most heavily minted American patterns, though unceasing demand for the issue has made the available supply seem tiny by comparison.

Realized: $92,000


1796 1/2 C No Pole – Scratched, Burnished – NCS. Fine Details. C-1, B-1, R.6. From The Collection of a Dallas Gentleman:

Still Rarity-6 after all these years, there are approximately 20 known examples of the 1796 No Pole rarity in existence. The grade distribution is interesting, as the 20 or so survivors include four pieces that are more or less Mint State, followed by five or six middle grade Fine to VF examples, and eight to 10 lower grade pieces. This piece probably ranks about 10th finest of those known to Heritage.

Realized: $74,750


1794 $1 – Repaired – NCS. XF Details. B-1, BB-1, R.4:

The acquisition of a 1794 silver dollar is the highlight of any advanced collection of U.S. coins. That said, few numismatists can hope to ever own this classic piece of Americana. Not only does its cost place it beyond the reach of most collectors, but there are precious few specimens that have survived to the present day. Those that have managed to escape the ravages of time, many – if not most – are plagued with some sort of impairment. This example certainly shows some wear and tear but it remains a highly collectible example of one of America’s most famous coins.

Realized: $69,000


1876 $1 Dollar, Judd-1467, Pollock-1618, High R.7, PR66 NGC. From The Frank M. Stirling Collection:

This 1876 ‘Liberty at the Seashore’ Dollar, struck in silver, is tied with the King Farouk specimen as the finest certified example of this seminal coin.

Realized: $69,000


Highlights from the Rare World Coins Auction include, but are not limited to:

Massive gold “Money Chain” from the Santa Margarita Wreck (circa 1620), 407 solid links, over 10 feet long, weighs 57.55oz (1789.8 grams), 22 karat:

It’s hard to imagine that a heavier gold “money chain” exists. It is likely the same chain that Mel Fisher is holding on page 183 of Sunken Treasure: Six Who Found Fortunes by Robert F. Burgess. The chain was previously on loan to Mel Fisher’s museum in the Florida Keys.

Realized: $115,000


Carlos III Pillar 8 Reales 1770NR-VJ, KM39 (Date Unlisted), Calico 1000, Cayon Unlisted, MS64 NGC:

The subject of much pre-auction buzz, few world crowns have demanded so much numismatic attention as this specimen, which realized its full potential as an anchor lot. The 1770 Nuevo Reino Pillar Dollar was unknown to exist until about three years ago when exactly 14 coins were found in the old foundations of the Nuestra Senora del Pilar church in Bogota. Since there are no previous records of 1770 Nuevo Reino Pillars, it is likely that these pieces were struck specifically for the ceremonies at the Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church. One of two not held in private hands or by institutions.

Realized: $80,500


Nicholas I Novodel 1-1/2 Family Rouble 1836, obverse signed П.У., reverse unsigned, Bust of Nicholas I right/Bust of Empress Alexandra in the center, facing right, surrounded by busts of the Royal children with no circles, Bit-H889 (R1), Proof 65 NGC:

By far, the finest example Heritage has offered, and one of the two finest examples certified by NGC. One of the recognizable treasures of Russian numismatics and an issue that stirs excitement whenever an example appears in the marketplace, and Long Beach was no exception.

Realized: $80,500


Republic gold Veld Pond 1902, KM11, MS64 NGC, lightly toned with an appealing concave slope to the flan and unusually high edges making the strike exceptionally sharp:

This very rare type and grade of this popular coin is easily one of the finest certified examples struck during the siege of Pilgrim’s Rest at the end of the Boer War.

Realized: $54,625


For more information about Heritage’s auctions, and a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com

To reserve your copy of any Heritage auction catalog, please contact Client Services at 1-800-872-6467, ext. 150, or visit www.HA.com/Catalog to order by email.

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About Heritage Auction Galleries

Heritage Auction Galleries is the world’s third largest auction house, and by far the largest auctioneer of rare collectibles, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 425,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage’s auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com.

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