1859-O GOLD $20 LIBERTYIn 1859, New Orleans was at the height of her global importance shortly before the Civil War, at the time this elusive issue was struck. In any and all grades, the 1859-O is important and rare. The 1859-O is the fourth rarest New Orleans double eagle, narrowly trailing the 1855-O. With a tiny mintage of only 9,100 coins struck, the surviving population numbers 75-85 examples in all grades and conditions. Of these, perhaps 15-20 specimens are in AU grades, with the population data slightly inflated by resubmissions and crossovers. This is a beautiful NGC AU 58 specimen from the historic New Orleans Mint.
There was little numismatic interest in double eagles in general, and branch mint issues in particular, in the 19th century. As a result, auction appearances of the 1859-O were almost unheard of before the 1930s. Of course, all this changed after the Gold Recall of 1933, when collecting gold coins became one of the few legal ways to invest in gold in this country. Early branch mint double eagles are in great demand in today's market.
The Liberty Head Double was the largest denomination coin that was first minted as a pattern coin in 1849. It was minted for commerce from 1850-1907. In 1849, the immense discoveries of gold in California that inspired the minting of the large $20 double eagle gold pieces. The $20 gold coin was born when there was a great influx of California gold combined with the need for a larger denomination gold coin. The Double Eagle was more of a Bankers Coin, intended to simplify transfers of large sums between financial institutions, and between nations... which had significant mintages.
The Double Eagle was designed by James B. Longacre, and the obverse bears the bust of Liberty facing left, amid a circle of 13 stars. Liberty wears a tiara or coronet, inscribed with her name ''Liberty.'' Longacre opted to sign this work, which is the first instance of an engraver doing so, on an officially minted U.S. coin... At the truncation of Liberty's bust at the neck, is the initials ''J.B.L.'' on the double eagle, with the date beneath Liberty's bust.