Liberty Head Eagles and The Condition Census: Part One
I have written extensively about the Condition Census as it applies to United States gold coins: what it is, its origin and significance and specific examples of issues and a listing of the Condition Census. I recently had an interesting conversation with an advanced collector about his holdings, and he mentioned to me that there were specific instances where he owned virtually the entire Condition Census for the denomination in which he specialized. This was not some idle boast; what he said was true and it inspired me to think about writing a series of articles which focus on Condition Census listings.
The first denomination that I’m going to focus on is Liberty Head eagles. This is a series which has gone from overlooked to in demand in a reasonably short period of time. As recently as four or five years ago, I can remember offering unquestionable Condition Census examples of more obscure (i.e., Philadelphia and San Francisco) issues for very reasonable sums and having them sit on my website for weeks before they sold. Today, when I get such coins in—which is not very often—they sell almost immediately and typically with multiple orders.
Before I begin, there is a major caveat to discuss which concern not only the Condition Census but any study that deals with rankings of coins in regards to their appearance. Just because the plastic that encases a coin says that it grades, for example, MS62, this doesn’t mean it’s “better” than another example of the same date that grades MS61, MS60 or even AU58. When I say that in order to qualify as a Condition Census example a coin must grade in the AU55 to AU58 range, this is making an assumption that the coin in question is choice, original and eye appealing.
1. No Motto, 1838 to 1866
1838: There are at least four to six known in Uncirculated so, in theory, an 1838 eagle would have to grade at least MS60 to MS61 to qualify as a Condition Census example. However, I might include a really choice AU58 as well.
1839 Head of 1838: This variety is more common in Uncirculated than sometimes realized with probably over 10 known. To qualify as a Condition Census example a coin would have to grade MS61 to MS62.
1839 Head of 1840: This variety is extremely rare in higher grade and I am aware of just two in Uncirculated. A nice AU55 would easily qualify as Condition Census.
1840: The 1840 eagle is common in lower AU grades but rare in AU58 and extremely rare in full Mint State with just four or five known. An MS60 is easily in the Condition Census
1841: There are five or six Uncirculated examples of this date. I would regard any 1841 eagle which grades MS60 or better as Condition Census.
1841-O: This very rare date is unknown in Uncirculated and exceedingly rare above AU55. A choice, original AU53 to AU55 is easily in the Condition Census for the issue.
1842 Small Date: This is the rarer of the two varieties for the year. Three or four exist in Uncirculated meaning that a properly graded AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1842 Large Date: With just five or six known in Uncirculated this variety is rare in high grades as well. I would give the cut-off for Condition Census inclusion as MS60 to MS61.
1842-O: The 1842-O is a very rare coin in high grades with an estimated four or five in Uncirculated. A choice, original AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1843: The 1843 is a lightly regarded issue but it is exceedingly rare in Uncirculated with just two or three known. Again, a properly graded AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1843-O: There are five to six known in Uncirculated. An 1843-O eagle which grades MS60 to MS61 qualifies as Condition Census.
1844: The 1844 is the rarest eagle from this mint struck prior to the Civil War. There are only one or two in Uncirculated and the bottom end of the Condition Census goes all the way down to AU53 to AU55.
1844-O: An MS60 example of this date is in the Condition Census as there are maybe five to six in Uncirculated. A choice, original AU58 might qualify as well.
1845: There are just two or three known in Uncirculated which means a nice AU58 easily qualifies as Condition Census.
1845-O: Virtually all No Motto eagles from this mint are very rare to extremely rare in Uncirculated. Only three or four of this date exist in Mint State which means a nice AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1846: Another extremely rare issue in Mint State with just one or two known to me. I would place a choice AU55 in the Condition Census.
1846-O: Two or three are known in Uncirculated. A choice AU58 easily qualifies as Condition Census.
1847: This is one of the few No Motto eagles from the 1840’s which is not extremely rare in Uncirculated and more than 20 1847’s are known in MS60 or better. To qualify in the Condition Census, an example must be MS62 and choice for the grade.
1847-O: The 1847-O is the most common No Motto New Orleans eagle in Uncirculated with more than 10 known. I would place the cut-off for Condition Census at MS62.
1848: This date is much scarcer in Uncirculated than the 1847 or 1849 but a few very nice MS63 to MS64 examples are known, making MS62 the level for the Condition Census.
1848-O: There are actually as many as seven or eight known in Uncirculated including some in the MS64 to MS66 range. This makes the level for Condition Census a high MS63.
1849: More than 20 exist in Uncirculated including some as high as MS64. A nice, original MS63 would easily qualify in the Condition Census.
1849-O: I doubt if more than two or three are known in Uncirculated and none of these are much better than MS60 to MS61. A nice AU55 is in the Condition Census.
1850 Small Date: This is the scarcer of the two varieties and there are just five or six known in Uncirculated. I’d put any example in MS60 or better in the Condition Census listing.
1850 Large Date: While more available overall, this variety iss still quite rare in Mint State with maybe six to eight known. The Condition Census would include any example grading MS61 or finer.
1850-O: This overlooked condition rarity has just one or two known in Uncirculated. A properly graded AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1851: This date is harder to find in Mint State than other “common dates” of this era. There are probably fewer than a dozen known and an MS61 would qualify as Condition Census.
1851-O: Around ten or so are known in Uncirculated, mostly in the MS60 to MS61 range. To be in the Condition Census, an 1851-O eagle would have to grade MS61 and be choice.
1852: An estimated 12-15 exist in Mint State. I believe an MS62 is comfortably within the Condition Census.
1852-O: This date is hugely rare in Uncirculated with just one or two extant. A properly graded AU55 qualifies as Condition Census.
1853: Slightly more available than the 1852 in Uncirculated with around 15 or so known. An MS62 is in the Condition Census.
1853-O: A very rare issue in Uncirculated with just three to five known. A choice, original AU58 is in the Condition Census.
1854: Very rare in Uncirculated with fewer than ten known. MS61 examples are in the Condition Census.
1854-O Small Date: This is the rarer of the two varieties and only two or three known in Uncirculated. I think a choice, original AU58 would qualify in the Condition Census.
1854-O Large Date: This variety is more available in higher grades but it is still very rare in Uncirculated with just four or five known. Again, a properly graded AU58 is Condition Census.
1854-S: The first eagle from this mint and very rare in Uncirculated with four or five known. An AU58 is Condition Census.
1855: More than 15 are known in Uncirculated. MS62 seems to me to be the qualifying grade for Condition Census consideration.
1855-O: Just two or three exist in Uncirculated and not many more in AU58. A properly graded AU55 would qualify.
1855-S: This overlooked rarity n unknown in Uncirculated and exceedingly rare in AU58. The Condition Census includes any properly graded AU55.
1856: There are 15-20 in Uncirculated with most in the MS61 to MS63 range. An MS62 is in the Condition Census.
1856-O: There are only one or two in Uncirculated and not many in AU58. I’d include a properly graded AU55 in the Condition Census.
1856-S: There are around a half dozen known in Uncirculated including a few as high as MS63 to MS64. Still, any properly graded MS60 or better is Condition Census.
1857: I am aware of just two in Mint State and would place a properly graded AU58 in the Condition Census.
1857-O: This date is unknown in Uncirculated and exceptionally rare in AU58. I would place a properly graded AU55 in the Condition Census.
1857-S: Thanks to the SS Central America a few nice Mint State pieces exist but I would still put any properly graded MS60 or finer example in the Condition Census.
1858: This date is probably unique in Uncirculated and the Condition Census extends down as far as AU55.
1858-O: There are fewer than ten known in Uncirculated but this is a more available date in Uncirculated than commonly recognized. I’d place the Condition Census cut-off at around MS61.
1858-S: Beginning with this issue, the S mint eagles become impossible to find in U;ncirculated. Condition Census is AU55 and maybe even as low as AU53 if eye appeal is given weight.
1859: A very rare and overlooked coin in higher grades with just three or so known in Uncirculated. Condition Census is AU58 and above.
1859-O: There is nothing close to Uncirculated known and even a nice AU53 is well within the Condition Census.
1859-S: Unknown in Uncirculated and I’ve never seen one better than AU55. Condition Census is AU50 to AU53.
1860: Fewer than ten exist in Uncirculated and just two or three grade above MS62. Condition Census is likely in the MS61 range.
1860-O: As many as five or six are known in Uncirculated which means that any piece grading MS60 or above is in the Condition Census for this issue.
1860-S: This is one of the real condition rarities in the series and I’d place even a properly graded AU50 to AU53 in the Condition Census.
1861: This is the last date of this design type which is available in higher grades. Two to three dozen are known in Uncirculated including some nice MS63’s and MS64’s. I’d still place a properly graded MS62 in the Condition Census.
1861-S: Unique in Uncirculated and extremely rare in the higher AU grades. Condition Census is AU55.
1862: Unknown in Uncirculated and extremely rare in the higher AU grades although a touch more available than the other P mints of this era. I’d place a choice, high end AU55 in the Condition Census.
1862-S: Unique in Uncirculated and exceedingly rare in AU55 and above. Condition
1863: Another very rare date although one does exist in Uncirculated. I think Condition Census is as low as AU50 to AU53.
1863-S: Relatively common with a whopping two to three known in Uncirculated (that’s a little coin humor, reader…). Condition Census is AU55 but a nice AU53 might qualify as well.
1864: Another date with two or three known in Uncirculated but still very rare in grades as low as AU55 to AU58. Condition Census examples grade in this range.
1864-S: The rarest No Motto eagle; unknown in Uncirculated and exceedingly rare in Uncirculated. An AU50 is in the Condition Census and I’d suggest even a properly graded EF45 could be as well.
1865: Unique in Uncirculated and exceedingly rare in AU55 and above. An AU53 qualifies in the Condition Census.
1865-S Normal Date: The rarer of the two varieties and one of the keys to the series in AU. Condition Census is in the AU50 to AU53 range.
1865-S Inverted Date: Quite rare but more available than the Normal Date. This variety is unique in Mint State. Condition Census begins around the AU53 mark.
1866-S No Motto: Yet another issue which is unknown in Uncirculated and extremely rare in properly graded AU55 and above. Condition Census would certainly include a properly graded AU53.
So there you have it…a lot of rare coins with very few known in Uncirculated and a proposed Condition Census for each.
In the next article in this series, I will look at the slightly less interesting but still very collectible With Motto type.