New Orleans’ Best Kept Secret
By Brian Zweig
MS62 1903 New Orleans $10 Liberty Eagle
As a category, New Orleans gold coins are among the most popular in American numismatics. They are a perennial favorite thanks to their high degree of rarity and intriguing historical background. Unlike the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints—which remain in operation today—the New Orleans facility was shuttered long ago. Even when it was operational, much of its bandwidth was dedicated to making silver coins. The New Orleans Mint also experienced many years of downtime thanks to the Civil War. Thus, “O-Mint” gold coins were issued in meager quantities and remain wildly scarce.
This month’s Spotlight offer is the first group of New Orleans gold coins we’ve had in years. And what a group it is! At this year’s Philadelphia ANA World’s Fair of Money show, we happened to be in the right place at the right time. One of our sources had an original hoard of 1903 New Orleans $10 Liberty Eagles, all graded MS62. If there’s one word we could use to describe this mini-hoard, it’s fresh. The coins are all new to the market—and surprisingly affordable, too! But first, some further background on what makes New Orleans gold coins so special…
History of the New Orleans Mint
Thanks to its crucial position at the base of the Mississippi, New Orleans was a major trade hub in the 19th century. Both before and after the Louisiana Purchase, the city was one of North America’s most important financial centers. This activity resulted in strong demand for reliable currency—and thus a United States branch mint was opened in New Orleans in 1838.
Unlike the Dahlonega and Charlotte Mints, which also debuted in 1838, the New Orleans facility was not located near a mining region. Instead, the primary source of metal was imported gold and existing coins. Merchants would convert illiquid foreign pieces into American money, which was more readily accepted. A substantial amount of gold was brought to New Orleans from Mexico, too.
Production at the New Orleans Mint remained steady until the Civil War, at which point it was seized by Confederate forces. In fact, a quantity of 1861-O half dollars was actually struck by the Confederacy. The Mint ran out of bullion in Spring 1861 and remained dormant until deep into the Reconstruction Era. Finally, in 1879, the property was put back into service.
During its second stint from 1879 to 1909, the New Orleans Mint only produced six denominations. Of those six, the majority of the effort was concentrated on silver dollars. The Bland-Allison Act compelled the Federal Government to buy massive quantities of silver and convert it into coin. To satisfy the requirements of this legislation, the New Orleans Mint devoted much of its resources to belting out silver dollars. Gold coins were issued, too, but at best they were an ancillary activity for the Mint.
When Morgan dollar production halted in 1904, the New Orleans Mint became largely unnecessary. By then, the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and new Denver facilities could handle the responsibility of striking America’s coinage. The New Orleans property was eventually closed in 1909 and served a variety of functions since, including as an archive, museum, fallout shelter, and Coast Guard office. As the years passed and “O-Mint” pieces vanished from circulation, New Orleans coins developed their loyal and fervent collector base.
From a numismatic standpoint, coins struck at New Orleans range from somewhat available to wildly rare. On the low end of the rarity and value spectrum, coins like the 1883-O Morgan dollar can be found in Uncirculated condition for under $75. New Orleans gold coins, meanwhile, tend to be much scarcer than their silver counterparts. An 1883-O $10 Eagle, for example, is unique in Mint State and is worth $50,000 to $125,000 in lightly circulated condition. The mintage figures tell the entire story—the New Orleans Mint struck an astounding 8.7 million silver dollars that year and a paltry 800 $10 Eagles!
Luckily for collectors, not all O-Mint $10 Eagles are so pricey. The 1903-O is one of a few dates the average numismatist can afford—even in Uncirculated. However, in spite of its affordable price point, the coin is still a formidable rarity. It’s at least 20 to 30 times scarcer than the most common date in the series, yet sells for less than double the price. The difference in rarity becomes even more extreme in higher grades. As an MS62, the 1903-O is 49 times rarer than the most common date.
Own New Orleans’ Hidden Treasure
While we cannot say for sure, the coins in today’s hoard appear to have been stashed away since their time of issue. They all show a beautiful uniform patina that can only develop from decades of storage. Our client didn’t want to reveal his source, but we believe these coins were likely “repatriated” from Europe, as we’ve seen fresh groups found overseas with the same appearance.
Each and every coin is graded MS62 by PCGS. They are all in fresh holders (they were graded for the first time ever a few weeks ago) and are consistent in appearance. Without exception, each coin displays lovely original coloration, well-preserved surfaces, ample mint luster, and solid eye appeal. If not for some minor abrasions from jostling around in mint bags, the coins would be good candidates for the MS63 grade.
We see two compelling reasons to own this coin. First, it’s the most cost-effective way to own a New Orleans gold coin in Mint State condition. Secondly, we believe the coin is undervalued in today’s marketplace. All New Orleans gold coins, regardless of date or condition, are rare. They represent a miniscule percentage of all gold coins ever made. At less than double the cost of a generic MS62 $10 Liberty, these 1903-O coins seem dramatically underpriced. We can think of numerous coins that are easier to find but worth $2,000 to $3,500 per coin or more!
It’s taken us years to find a group of New Orleans gold like this, but they might be spoken for in mere hours. Few coins offer such a unique story and a reasonable price point. We cannot think of another U.S. gold coin under $1,500 per coin that offers such a powerful combination of rarity and historical appeal. The fact that they’re all pleasing Uncirculated is the icing on the cake! If you’re looking to add one of these unusual MS62 1903 New Orleans $10 Liberty Eagles to your portfolio, we strongly urge you to act quickly. The last group of hoard coins we showcased sold out rapidly—and we expect a similar response here, too. Please call us at 800-831-0007 or email us to secure these coins while they’re still available.
*Prices subject to change based on market fluctuation and product availability. Prices reflected are for cash, check, or bank wire. Free shipping, handling, and insurance are available for all quantities ordered. Offer expires Friday, September 7, 2018, or while supplies last.