Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 120

Lot 596

1857-O. PCGS graded MS-61 Prooflike. CAC. PQ. A lovely example and in our opinion should be graded MS-62 PL. Only 30,000 struck. Pop 1; the only prooflike "O" Mint $20 gold for any year at PCGS. NGC has graded 3 prooflike 1857-O $20 (the grades are 58, 60 and 62), all from the S.S. Republic Shipwreck, all look baggy and improperly cleaned when compared to this majestic coin. Notice how clean and fresh the surfaces are, with classic random reddish specks seen on other untouched, uncleaned New Orleans gold coins from this era. Liberty's cheek is particularly attractive, and the frosted devices really stand out when visually measured against the mirror fields. A simply incredible example of this scarce issue and one that is worthy of the most advanced specialized collection. Estimated Value $250,000 - UP
Long ago this 1857-O was struck at the New Orleans branch mint as one of a total of 30,000 pieces produced that year. All were struck from the same pair of dies. This coin was very likely among the first few hundred struck as the fields show incredible Prooflike reflectivity imparted by freshly polished dies. This is the only "Prooflike" example of this date (or denomination!) from the New Orleans Mint certified as such by PCGS. It is known that the original dies to strike coins were prepared at the Philadelphia Mint and shipped to the various branch mints at the time. After the dies were created and the date and mintmark imparted, the dies were then polished up to remove and loose metallic burrs or imperfections. When the dies were used for coinage, the prooflike mirror fields were seen on the first coins struck and soon the fields became slightly worn and a more satiny, lustrous appearance is created as more coins were struck. Another feature that confirms this was an early strike is a trace of repunching below the lower right serif of the 1. This is not seen on most examples of this singular die pairing, and would have been worn or polished off the obverse die soon after coinage began.

The owners of this incredible coin state that it was discovered in San Juan, Puerto Rico recently and graded within the past few months by PCGS. How it came to pass eight generations there remains somewhat of a mystery, but this elegant 1857-O $20 likely came over with a passenger of some means from New Orleans at the time it was struck and preserved as a family heirloom. Recall that $20 was a considerable amount of money in 1857, representing roughly six to eight weeks of earnings for a skilled laborer in wages in the United States, even longer no doubt in Puerto Rico. Setting aside such a hefty sum as $20 in 1857 was clearly done by someone with considerable wealth.

One of the most noteworthy features of this particular 1857-O $20 is the incredible prooflike fields. A few others have been deemed Prooflike by NGC of various dates as well as others as Specimen double eagles, but these are all quite rare with no more than one to three graded any date from the New Orleans Mint. Most of these other Prooflike coins lost their original patina long ago, and one of these is a shipwreck recovery. It is reported by Doug Winter, noted expert in this field, only four examples of this date and mint--including one of the three known Prooflike 1857-O coins certified by NGC--came from the shipwreck of the S.S. Republic. The other Prooflike coins certified by NGC are quite bright and now lack whatever their original patina was in the chemical processing to prepare them for grading. NGC has certified a scant three examples of this date and mint as Prooflike, one each as AU58, MS60 and MS62. It is notable that the surfaces of this particular PCGS coin show amazing patches of reddish orange tone and only the tiniest of handling marks, perfectly matching the patina and coloration of the 1857-O $20 which has been designated by PCGS as MS-63, arguably the finest graded of this date and mint.

One quite special coin deserves mention here, that's the amazing 1856-O $20 that turned up in New England Rare Coin Galleries in 1979. A call came in from a person from Vermont and they asked if the company might be interested in buying a Proof 1856-O $20 gold piece. The staff member of New England Rare Coin Galleries said that there were no Proofs issued of that date and mint, and then asked almost in jest, if the caller was a descendant of Charles Bienvenu, the Superintendant of the New Orleans Mint in 1856. The caller responded with a "yes". Marc Emory of New England Rare Coin Galleries was able to purchase this amazing coin, which is clearly the finest of only 2,250 pieces struck that year. Another well known pair of New Orleans Proof gold coins are the 1844-O half eagle and eagle from the 1890 Parmelee Sale. While these Specimen and Proof coins were clearly created for collectors, the current 1857-O appears to have simply survived at random, and despite its incredible rarity as a Prooflike example, this feature is a direct result of its early production in the minting process of some 30,000 pieces that year. For the specialist who truly appreciates originality and eye appeal, this condition rarity speaks for itself and will no doubt be a major highlight of an advanced collection. The desirability of this coin simply cannot be overstated.


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