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How Rare Are Non-Shipwreck Gem Type One Double Eagles?

By Doug Winter RareGoldcoins.com

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In the recent Stack’s Bowers 2016 ANA Sale, I was fortunate to purchase an amazing 1860 double eagle, graded MS65 by PCGS, which was part of the Bull Run Collection and earlier was sold as Lot 900 in the famous October 1982 Eliasberg Collection auction.

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I paid $141,000 for it the other day; it had last sold in 1982 for $12,100. The coin is now owned by a New England collector who has built one of the two greatest collections of Type One double eagles formed in the modern era.

1860 $20.00 PCGS MS65. Images courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics

After I bought this coin, I told another dealer that the Eliasberg 1860 “was the finest non-shipwreck Type One double eagle I had ever owned.” This got me to thinking: just how rare are non-shipwreck MS65 and finer double eagles of this type?

Before I begin, here’s a little background for new collectors.

Until the early to mid- 1990s, Type One double eagles were all but unknown in Gem Uncirculated (MS65 and finer). The discovery of three shipwrecks (SS Central America, SS Brother Jonathan, and SS Republic) made a few dates (1855-S, 1856-S, 1857-S, 1865, and 1865-S) much more available in higher grades than ever before. To me, the ubiquity of Gem 1857-S double eagles (PCGS has graded 917 in MS65, 185 in MS66, and 12 in MS67) makes collectors forget just how rare these big coins are in very high grades.

Let’s take a look at the Type One double eagles graded MS65 by PCGS and specifically discuss each issue for which a Gem (or Gems) exist.

Type One Double Eagles (non-shipwreck) Graded by PCGS as of August 2016. Courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics


1854 Small Date: This coin is owned by Bill Crawford and it is currently part of the AWA Collection. It is notable as the only pre-1860 double eagle graded MS65 by PCGS which is unquestionably not sourced from a shipwreck.


1854-S: PCGS has graded two in MS65. One is in the Crawford collection while the other was last sold as Heritage 10/08: 3013. While PCGS does not note this, these two coins both are actually from a little-known shipwreck called the SS Yankee Blade, which was found in the late 1970s off the coast of California. So, while I include these on the list they are, in fact, shipwreck coins.

1860: This coin is discussed above and it is now owed by a New England collector. I believe it is the second finest non-shipwreck Type One after the famous 1861 in MS67, which is discussed below.


1861: The figure of “4” MS65’s graded seems accurate although I have only personally seen two different ones; the last one to trade at auction brought $66,125 as Stack’s Bowers 11/11: 9860. The sole MS67 example of this date is a very famous coin whose detailed sales history can be found in my eBook www.doubleeaglebook.com. It is universally believed to be the best Type One in existence and while I don’t know who currently owns it, I’m guessing it’s a “type coin on steroids” in someone’s set.

1864 $20.00, PCGS MS65. Images courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics

1864: This coin is owned by the same New England collector who owns the 1860 in MS65. I purchased it for him as Lot 5812 in the Heritage 4/14 sale at $282,000.

1865 $20.00 PCGS MS65 CAC. Images courtesy Doug Winter Numismatics

1865: This coin is actually from a shipwreck (SS Republic) although when I saw it, it wasn’t designated as such by PCGS. It sold for $88,125 as Heritage 4/13: 4575.

Remarkably, this list covers every single MS65 Type One Liberty Head double eagle not from the SS Central America. If we eliminate the two 1854-S and the 1865 as being from lesser-known shipwrecks, this leaves us with just seven distinct coins–and this is assuming that the PCGS population figure of four for the 1861 in MS65 is accurate.

While it is certainly possible that a few more PCGS-graded Gem quality Type One double eagles will come onto the marketplace in the coming years, I think we can safely state that even with gradeflation and aggressive crossover attempts (NGC to PCGS) that under a dozen pieces are likely to exist.

Are you interested in high-quality Liberty Head double eagles? Why not deal with the dealer who literally “wrote the book(s)” on these coins and who has handled more great individual Twenty Libs than anyone else? Call Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 to discuss your goals.
Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug 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 United States 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 exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has 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.

If you are interested in buying or selling classic US coins or if you would  like to have the world’s leading expert work with you assembling a set of coins? Contact Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 or by email at [email protected].



Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, 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. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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