I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my previous article on appearance rarity. It is my contention that CAC has now seen enough coins that we can make important observations about how rare (or not rare) a specific issue is in regards to its appearance. These observations work best on a comparative basis within a specific series.
The most recent series I’ve decided to analyze is the New Orleans eagle, struck from 1841 through 1860. These are, of course, known as No Motto issues and they are popular with collectors. In this article, we will look at the appearance rarity of each issue in both circulated and Uncirculated grades, as well as the total rarity. We’ll also compare these numbers to those I put forth in my book on New Orleans gold and see what these tell us.
A little background is in order.
The New Orleans No Motto eagle series contains a total of 21 issues. These coins were struck for 20 consecutive years, with two major varieties for the year 1854: the Small Date and the Large Date. It is well known that all No Motto eagles, regardless of the date or the mint of issue, are rare in Uncirculated. This is especially true with the New Orleans issues as even the more available issues have surviving populations of fewer than a dozen in Mint State-60 and finer.
It is always important when compiling these charts to ponder if enough No Motto New Orleans eagles have been submitted to CAC to make strong observations. I would tend to think that the answer is a strong “yes” but it is important to note that the two finest collections of New Orleans eagles (Tyrant and New England) contain a number of high-quality single coins that have never been sent to CAC. This impacts issues like the 1850-O, which currently has a CAC population of zero coins in Uncirculated. But the coins in these two collections (one in MS65 and the other in MS64) will almost certainly sticker when sent to CAC, and this will raise the population significantly.
NOTE: The 1845-O and 1846-O contain varieties that are recognized by CAC but which are not collected as distinct issues by specialists.
The CAC total of seven coins for Uncirculated 1845-O eagles includes four pieces graded MS61. It is my belief that this figure is inflated by resubmissions.
The total percentage of coins graded in Uncirculated (6.84%) is lower than for the last two series I examined for appearance rarity. To refresh your memory, these were Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles, and the total percentage of coins graded in Uncirculated was as follows:
- Charlotte half eagles: 14.54%
- Dahlonega half eagles: 8.28%
Now, let’s look at some of the observations we can make from the CAC numbers listed above.
The five dates with the lowest total CAC populations are:
- 1859-O (4)
- 1857-O (7)
- 1841-O (8)
- 1855-O (10)
- 1856-O (12)
A few things jump out at me.
1841-O $10.00 PCGS AU58 CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
The first is that the 1841-O is, in fact, significantly rarer than the 1857-O in terms of appearance rarity. If we drill down and look more closely, we see that six of the eight total 1841-O eagles approved by CAC grade EF45 or lower. In comparison, six of the seven 1857-O eagles approved by CAC were graded AU50 or finer. In my experience, the 1841-O is clearly a rarer date than the 1857-O, both in terms of overall and condition rarity.
The next thing I find interesting is the fact that the 1849-O and the 1852-O don’t qualify for the Top Five. The 1849-O has a total population at CAC of 13 coins, with just four grading AU50 or finer. In my experience, it is a rarer date in terms of its appearance rarity than either the 1855-O or the 1856-O. The 1852-O just misses this list with a total of 14 coins approved by CAC. It is very close to the 1855-O and 1856-O in terms of its appearance rarity; a fact I noted in my recently published book. I could certainly see adding these two issues to the Top Five and replacing the 1855-O and 1856-O; these four dates are very similar in terms of overall and high-grade rarity.
1849-O $10.00 PCGS AU58
Is there anything surprising on the other end of the list? The five dates with the highest CAC populations are:
- 1847-O (102)
- 1851-O (99)
- 1843-O (38)
- 1844-O (34)
- 1853-O (33)
It is interesting to note that the two most common dates (1847-O and 1851-O) have a combined CAC population of 201 coins. This means that 34.41% of all CAC-approved eagles are these two dates. The impact of these two dates in Uncirculated is a bit less significant with 11 of the 40 coins approved by CAC (or 27.5%) being these two.
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The other three dates are condition rarities. All have similar rarity profiles: common in grades through AU55 but rare in properly graded AU58 and extremely rare in Uncirculated.
Continuing to look at high-grade populations, it is interesting to note that no fewer than nine different New Orleans No Motto eagles haven’t a single coin graded MS60 or finer approved by CAC. These are as follows: 1841-O, 1850-O, 1852-O, 1853-O, 1854-O Small Date, 1855-O, 1857-O, 1859-O and 1860-O.
In my experience, at least five of these dates either have no Uncirculated examples known or they have a single coin (or perhaps two to three) that aren’t likely to qualify for approval at CAC when–or if–they are submitted. These are the 1841-O, 1853-O, 1854-O Small Date, 1857-O, and 1859-O. The other four dates have at least one Uncirculated coin of which I am aware that is likely to qualify for approval at CAC when–or if–they are submitted.
There are a few dates whose overall CAC numbers surprised me.
1842-O $10.00 PCGS MS63 CAC
The 1842-O is common in grades through EF45 but scarce in the lower AU grades and very rare in AU58 and finer. CAC has approved 19 in all, which is more than I would have expected. The 1845-O has a significantly lower overall population in circulated grades than I expected with just 13. This is a date that comes nice and I could swear that I’ve handled at least a dozen CAC-worthy coins over the years. The 1860-O is another date that surprises me. Thirteen of the 15 pieces that have been approved by CAC grade About Uncirculated. This date didn’t see much circulation and many of the AUs on the market are bright and lack the appearance preferred by CAC. There are as many as 10 known in Uncirculated including a few really nice MS62 to MS63 pieces. I’m very surprised that none have stickered at CAC.
Let’s wrap this article up by comparing the CAC rankings from top to bottom with the rankings in my book:
These findings show a good deal of similarity between the CAC figures and my findings. It should be remembered that I expressed overall rarity as a range (i.e. 65-75 coins), which led to many ties. The CAC numbers are not expressed as a range, which means that a coin that I ranked as tied for third known with two other coins is very similar to a CAC figure that falls in this range.
Due to spatial limitations, I’m going to quit here. But I’d like to add one suggestion to collectors who are interested in No Motto eagles from New Orleans. Given the rarity of Uncirculated coins, it makes sense to create rarity rankings for high-grade coins using AU55 and AU58 as the parameters. As many more exist, it will give a truer sense to the rarity of these dates in what is essentially the best available grade(s).
No Motto New Orleans eagles are a great series to collect and it would be a real challenge to assemble a high-grade set that features all CAC-approved coins.
Would you like to build a set of CAC-approved New Orleans No Motto eagles? Contact Doug Winter via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and discuss the options which are available to you. Doug has written the standard reference work on New Orleans gold and he works closely with collectors whether they are buying a $2,000 1847-O eagle in AU55 or a $75,000 finest known New Orleans eagle.
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About Doug Winter
Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.
Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.
Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues
In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
- Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
- Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
- Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
- The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
- Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
- An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
- The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
- A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
- The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
- Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis
Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.