Legend Numismatics

HomeUS Coins1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

A steady stream of sojourners arrived at California’s gold fields in 1852, hoping to claim their share of the new state’s alluvial wealth. Easy money could no longer be made by sifting for gold dust; it was now made by farming, raising cattle, and selling general merchandise.

Still, gold extraction remained an important economic factor, and as the complexity and scope of mining grew more sophisticated, the artisanal methods of the ’49ers became less prevalent.

In August of that year, the United States Congress enacted legislation authorizing the construction of a branch mint in San Francisco. The new facility would bring an end to a fascinating era of private gold minting.

The double eagle $20 gold coin denomination, which, along with the gold $1 coin, was brought into existence with the discovery of California gold, had entered its third year of production.

The Philadelphia Mint was producing millions of Liberty Head Double Eagle, kicking off with its inaugural 1850 issue and continuing until 1854 when it struck a more modest mintage of 757,899 coins. The only other mint producing double eagles during this period was the branch mint in New Orleans, and New Orleans’s $20 gold coin output was picayune. After mintages of 141,000 and 315,000 in 1850 and 1851, respectively, the 1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle mintage was just 190,000 pieces–most of the gold coming from deposits in California.

With the establishment of the San Francisco Mint, the New Orleans Mint would never approach this output of $20 gold coins again, and by the end of the decade, the O-Mint would report double eagle mintages of 8,000 (1855-O), 2,250 (1856-O), and 9,100 (1859-O). All are scarce, but the 1856-O is the undisputed New Orleans branch mint key.

Estimates on the surviving population of the 1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle range from 400 to 1,100. Stemming from only one die marriage, nearly all of these coins have seen heavy circulation. The 1852-O is scarce in About Uncirculated grades and rare in Mint State. The finest known example was graded MS65 by NGC (PCGS estimates that it would grade MS64 at their service).

The Bass 1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle


In this 2018 video segment, CoinWeek sat with coin dealer Russell Augustin to discuss the Bass 1852-O Liberty Head Double Eagle.

* * *

Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Examples of this date were recovered from the S.S. Republic shipwreck.

Top Population: PCGS MS62+ (2, 5/2024), NGC MS65 (1, 5/2024), and CAC MS61 (2:0 stickered:graded, 5/2024).

  • NGC MS65 #920623-001: Henry Miller, via Stack’s, 1970s; “The Henry Miller Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 6, 2011, Lot 5243 – $276,000. Lustrous coin. Planchet void to the right of 2. Small scratch below 85. Tiny planchet voids scattered throughout the obverse in the stars. There are thin scratches in the left obverse field and a major planchet void on the reverse below IT of UNITED. Black stains are on the shield to the left of AMERICA and in the letters W and Y of TWENTY, as well as the denticles below Y.
  • NGC MS63 #6606229-001: Harry W.Bass, Jr., acquired the coin from Paramount, July 16, 1976; Douglas Winter, “The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part III,” Bowers and Merena, May 2000, Lot 771; Lot won by Douglas Winter; Robert Galiette; As PCGS MS62 #28539218. “The Gilded Age Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 2014, Lot 12005 – $94,000. The Gilded Age Collection on insert. As PCGS MS62+ #84021578. Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1321 – $84,000. Regraded. Upgraded one-half point. Gilded Age pedigree removed. Bass pedigree on insert. Heritage Auctions, January 12, 2023, Lot 3891 – $93,000; As NGC MS63 #6606229-001. Heritage Auctions, August 15, 2023, Lot 3243 – $111,000. Crossed to NGC, upgraded one-half point. Sharp, full strike. Small ticks on the cheek. Small scratch in the obverse field to the right of star 6.
  • PCGS MS62 #07321100: “The New York Eye Appeal Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 14, 2006, Lot 5580 – $48,875. Horizontal scratch in the field to the right of star 2. Tiny ticks above the coronet and at denticles between stars 7 and 8. Dark splotch on the reverse right field.
  • PCGS MS61 #48502919: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4332 – $33,600.
  • PCGS MS61 #40802636: Stack’s Bowers, March 25, 2021, Lot 4171 – $40,800. Deep cut on cheek. Scartches behind eye. Cut in the field below star 6. Scruffy fields.
  • PCGS MS61 #25793403: Del Loy Hansen; Heritage Auctions, August 24, 2022, Lot 4105 – $34,800. Hansen novelty insert.
  • PCGS MS61 #44936726: Heritage Auctions, July 14, 2022, Lot 3370 – $36,000. Five prominent scratches on the face. Hit to the right of the lowest curl. On the reverse, there is a deep diagonal hit in the glory, a small hit in the left field, and multiple hits above the denomination. Reverse rim hit at 9 o’clock.
  • PCGS MS61 #35487939: As NGC MS61 #3717000-013. “The Charles G. Wright Family Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 7, 2014, Lot 5682 – $38,187.50; Heritage Auctions, August 2, 2017, Lot 4182 – $29,375. As PCGS MS61 #35487939. Stack’s Bowers, November 13, 2020, Lot 9212 – $31,200. Rim hit below star 1. Diagonal hit on the cheek.
  • PCGS MS61 CAC #39848551: As PCGS MS61 CAC #84928592. Legend Rare Coin Auctions, October 17, 2018, Lot 352 – Passed; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, August 30, 2019, Lot 492 – Passed. As PCGS MS61 CAC #39848551. GreatCollections, November 19, 2023, Lot 1130501 – View.
  • NGC MS61 #406747-013: Stack’s Bowers, June 23, 2017, Lot 1146 – $32,900.
  • NGC MS61 #3717000-012: “The Charles G. Wright Family Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2014, Lot 5790 – $41,125. Diagonal mark to the bottom left of star 8.
  • NGC MS61 #3389169-001: Heritage Auctions, September 27, 2013, Lot 6842 – $38,187.50. Three prominent diagonal hits on the face and neck.
  • NGC MS60 #6815298-002: Stack’s Bowers, August 16, 2023, Lot 5165 – $22,800.
  • PCGS MS60 CAC #25356905: Heritage Auctions, April 27, 2017, Lot 4305 – $32,900. Scruffy surfaces. Two dark marks in the left obverse field. Scattered hits on chin and jaw.
  • PCGS MS60 CAC #82957957: Stack’s Bowers, March 30, 2017, Lot 3133 – $37,600.
  • PCGS MS60 #4398663: Stack’s Bowers, November 3, 2016, Lot 2165 – $51,700. Deep cuts on neck. Deep cut on cheek. Scratch in the left obverse field between stars 3 and 4.
  • NGC MS60 #3580935-002: Heritage Auctions, October 19, 2012, Lot 6149 – $29,375.
  • NGC MS60 #253136-008: Heritage Auctions, October 25, 2006, Lot 3163 – $34,500. Planchet void to the left of the bust truncation. Two ticks on the cheek. On the reverse, there are dark spots below the ribbon on the right, on the fletching, and at the denticles below D.

* * *

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1852
Denomination: Twenty Dollars (USD)
Mintmark: O (New Orleans)
Mintage: 190,000
Alloy: .900 Gold, .100 Copper
Weight: 33.44 g
Diameter: 34.00 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: James Barton Longacre
REV Designer: James Barton Longacre
Quality: Business Strike


* * *

CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Park Avenue Numismatics Gold and Silver Bullion

AU Capital Management US gold Coins

NGCX Holders and Grading