+ Unknown Number of Proofs (two or three are estimated to have been struck).
The 1850 double eagle is a very popular issue as it is the first collectible issue from this mint. It is reasonably available in lower grades (Very Fine and Extremely Fine) but it becomes harder to locate in the middle About Uncirculated range and it is scarce in properly graded AU58. This issue is very scarce and popular in Uncirculated and it is rare in MS62, very rare in MS63 and exceedingly rare above this.
STRIKE: New dies and extra care were employed to produce this issue, and as a result the 1850 is among the best-struck Type One double eagles. The obverse is usually seen with nearly full detail on the hair of Liberty, full radial lines in the stars, and sharply defined denticles. The reverse is also seen with a sharp strike and detail on the feathers, and at the border is often full or nearly so. The collector should be able to locate a coin with very good detail with little effort.
SURFACES: Many 1850 double eagles show fairly extensive abrasions on the surfaces. However, there are a fair number known with minimally abraded fields. I have seen some examples with raised die polishing marks in the fields. These are mint-made and should not be confused with hairlines, which are the result of cleaning. A clean, wholesome 1850 double eagle can be found with just a bit of patience.
LUSTER: This issue is seen with at least two distinct types of luster. The more common appearance is frosty with a slightly grainy texture. There are also pieces with semi-prooflike to nearly fully prooflike reflectiveness. These can be visually impressive but they are often heavily bagmarked and have poor eye appeal as a result. It is likely that these are the first struck from their die pair and these are numismatically significant as a result.
COLORATION: The natural coloration ranges from a rich green-gold hue to medium orange-gold. There are still a decent number of 1850 double eagles with natural color, but these are becoming harder to locate.
EYE APPEAL: The eye appeal for 1850 double eagles is generally above average by the standards of this series. This is due to the fact that many higher grade examples are very well struck, have good luster, and can show pleasing natural color(s). This is actually among the easier Type One issues to locate with really good eye appeal, and the patient collector should be able to locate a very pleasing 1850 in a variety of grade and price ranges.
INTERESTING VARIETIES: Varieties are known with a Closed 5 (where the knob of this digit touches the cusp), and an Open 5 (where the knob of this digit is free from the cusp). These are not generally collected and don’t command any price premium.
PROOFS: A very small number were struck but I have never personally seen one. I have been told by a knowledgeable American dealer that there is a Proof 1850 double eagle that he has seen in Paris and it is an unquestionable Proof. It is believed that at least one was struck for Engraver James B. Longacre, and that another may have been made for the Congressional Committee on the Library. A genuine Proof would be one of the most significant issues of this design.
HOARDS: There were a total of 53 in the S.S. Republic including two in Uncirculated. 26 were recovered from the S.S. Central America, all in circulated grades. 92 were found in the so-called “Baltimore Hoard.” Around ten years ago, I viewed (and then later sent to PCGS and NGC) a collector’s accumulation of 1850 double eagles ranging from VF to MS-61 which number over three dozen pieces.
BUYING TIPS: This historically significant date is very popular and it has collector appeal outside of the specialist community. Date collectors tend to look either for a nice mid-range AU or they splurge for an impressive Uncirculated example. Be patient and wait for a clean, well struck piece with nice color; these coins are still available and they do not command a huge price premium over a “typical” 1850.
AUCTION RECORD: The current auction record for this date was set in the Goldberg 1/16 sale, where Lot 1639, graded MS64 by PCGS and approved by CAC, sold for $170,375.
FINEST KNOWN: There are some really outstanding 1850 double eagles known. The best that I have personally seen is an NGC MS65 which was last sold as Lot 3698 in the Heritage 1/07 sale (it realized $161,000). It is earlier ex Bowers and Merena 5/00 (Bass III): 757 ($62,100; as PCGS MS64) and it was obtained by Bass in the New Netherlands April 1972 auction. NGC shows a second coin graded MS65 in their population report but I am inclined to think it is the same piece. In the Vienna, Austria Kunsthistorisches Museum, I saw an 1850 double eagle which appeared to grade MS65++ but I had to view it through a glass case and didn’t get to turn the coin over to view the reverse.
TOTAL KNOWN: 2500-3500+
- Very Fine: 750-1000
- Extremely Fine: 1150-1500
- About Uncirculated: 600-900
- Uncirculated: 50-100
PCGS Number: 8902
POPULATION FIGURES: As of the beginning of 2017, PCGS had graded 38 in MS62, two in MS62+, seven in MS63, and three in MS64 for a total of 89 in Uncirculated. NGC had graded 10 in MS63, one in MS64, one in MS64PL, and two in MS65 for a total of 79 in Uncirculated. These figures are much inflated by resubmissions, especially in the MS60 to MS62 range. CAC has approved seven in MS61, four in MS62 and two in MS64 for a total of 13 in Uncirculated.
PERFORMANCE SINCE 2002: Few common dates of this type have shown the price performance of the 1850 and this is attributable to its level of demand outside of specialists and date collectors. When the first edition of this book was written in 2002, a nice AU example could be purchased in the $2,500-3,500 range. Today, a nice AU costs at least $5,000-8,000.
COMMENTS: The 1850 remains one of my favorite Type One double eagles. It is a numismatically significant issue which is well made and available in relatively high grades. A few choice examples have surfaced since the first edition of this book (2002), and these are among the most attractive Liberty Head double eagles of this type.