The 1853 has a much lower mintage than the 1851 and the 1852 double eagles, but these three dates are similar in overall rarity. The 1853 is readily available in grades up to About Uncirculated-53. In the highest AU grades, this date is somewhat harder to locate. In Uncirculated, it is quite rare and undervalued.
STRIKE: Many 1853 double eagles show weakness on the curls above the eye of Liberty. The rest of the hair is stronger, and the curls below the ear are close to full. The stars often show full radial lines, and the denticles are bold and well separated. The reverse is sharp at the center but many examples have some weakness at the top of the lettering.
SURFACES: The surfaces are almost always heavily abraded although not as much so as on the 1852-P double eagle. But with some patience, the savvy collector should be able to find an 1853 with lightly abraded surfaces.
LUSTER: The luster most often seen on this issue is frosty with less of a distinctly semi-granular texture than seen on the 1851 and 1852 issues. There are not many known with semi-prooflike or fully prooflike fields.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is medium to deep orange-gold; less often it is a lighter yellow-gold hue. There are still a decent number which exist with natural color, but these are getting harder to find as more are cleaned or dipped.
EYE APPEAL: This date has average quality eye appeal. Most are well struck and have good luster but show heavy abrasions in the fields. It is not uncommon to find coins which are technically “Uncirculated” but which have been net graded down to AU55 or AU58 due to excessive abrasions.
INTERESTING VARIETIES: This is a very fertile year for significant varieties. Some of these are as follows:
- 1853/”2″ Overdate: This is the best known of these varieties and it is discussed in depth in the next chapter.
- Repunched Date: There are actually at least two types of repunched dates known for the 1853 double eagle. On the first, the base of the 1 is repunched. On the second there is repunching to the left of the inner curves of the 3.
- Blundered Date: The base of another 3 can be seen a little above the bases of the 53 and the base of an extra 1 can be seen below and to the left of the 1. It has been written that this variety was originally a doubled date with the first punch slanting up to the right, which was then mostly effaced and corrected. This variety is sometimes mistaken for the 1853/2 but it is clearly different.
PROOFS: No Proofs were struck this year.
HOARDS: There were 50 examples in the S.S. Republic including nine in Uncirculated. 21 were found in the S.S. Central America treasure. There were 27 in the Baltimore hoard including some which were in high grades.
BUYING TIPS: As recently as a few years ago it was still possible to cherrypick an 1853/”2″ as a normal date, but this seems unlikely in this age of increased information.
AUCTION RECORD: The auction record for this date is held by Heritage 2014ANA: 5683 which realized $152,750. The coin was graded MS65 by NGC.
FINEST KNOWN: The unquestionable finest known for this date is an NGC MS65 which last sold as Heritage 8/14: 5683 ($152,750); it was earlier Superior 5/05: 5333 ($66,700; as NGC MS64). The next best is a PCGS MS63 in the Hansen-Crawford collection.
TOTAL KNOWN: 2750-3750+
- Very Fine: 870-1250
- Extremely Fine: 1250-1500
- About Uncirculated: 600-960
- Uncirculated: 30-40
PCGS Number: 8908
POPULATION FIGURES: As of the beginning of 2017, PCGS had graded three in MS60, 17 in MS61, 23 in MS62, and three in MS63 for a total of 56 in Uncirculated. NGC had graded 19 in MS60, 33 in MS61, 19 in MS62, three in MS63, and one in MS65. There were another nine Uncirculated coins from the S.S. Republic.The grand total of Uncirculated coins from NGC is 84. These figures are much inflated by resubmissions, especially the MS61’s at PCGS and the MS61’s at NGC. CAC has approved three coins in MS60, five in MS61, and four in MS62 with none higher for a total of 12 in Uncirculated.
PERFORMANCE SINCE 2002: In the current market, a Choice About Uncirculated 1853 double eagle (equivalent to AU55) sells for $3,350 to $4,250. In 2002, a similar coin was worth $900-1,200. An average quality Uncirculated example (equivalent to MS61) is currently valued in the $9,000-11,000 range. In 2002, a similar coin was worth $4,500-5,000.
COMMENTS: When this book was first published in 2002, there were no 1853 double eagles graded higher than MS63 and very few at that level. Today, there is now a Gem (graded MS65 by NGC) as well as a few more in MS63. The 1853 has remained a true condition rarity and it is a date which is almost never seen in grades higher than MS61 to MS62. Since the Summer of 2006, only 10 MS62 coins have appeared at auction. Despite this paucity of coins, the 1853 is still thought of as a “common date” like the 1851 and 1852 are.