In his November Market Report newsletter, Douglas Winter wrote about the unique Proof 1844-O eagle now being exhibited at the New Orleans mint. Here are a few excerpts. -EditorAfter a probable absence of over a century, perhaps the most important New Orleans gold coin in existence is coming back to its ancestral home. My friend Paul Hollis, a coin dealer from Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans), has arranged for the unique Proof 1844-O eagle to be placed on exhibit at the New Orleans mint. This coin, with an estimated value of $2.5 million, goes on public display November 1 and will also be taken around Louisiana on tour by Hollis.
In 1844, the New Orleans mint produced at least one example of a Proof half eagle and eagle. Remarkably, both still exist and, even more remarkably, both are superbly preserved. Why were they produced and who were they struck for?
Unfortunately, contemporary documentation does not exist that gives the definitive answer to these questions, so we have to make some assumptions. I think its safe to say that the Proof 1844-O gold set was struck in commemoration of either a special event or, more likely, a visit to the Mint by some special VIP or dignitary. My guess would be that they were made for personal presentation to President John Tyler.
The earliest numismatic reference to the 1844-O Proofs appears to be in the Seavey descriptive catalog that was published in 1873. In 1890 when they were sold as part of the famous Parmelee collection the eagle sold (as Lot 1151) for the princely sum of $16 while its companion half eagle brought just $9.50. It was next seen in the collection of William Woodin who was famous both as a coin collector and as Secretary of the Treasury for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
Woodin sold his primary collection at auction in 1911 but I am not aware if the Proof 1844-O set was included in either of his two sales (it would be easy to check these in the sale catalogs but my library does not contain them). It is documented that Woodin also sold many of his coins privately to the leading collectors and dealers of the day. I do not know this with certainty but I surmise that the 1844-O Proofs went into the Brand collection.
From here on, the pedigree chain for the 1844-O half eagle and eagle gets murky. In fact, I think it is possible that the coins were split up when the Brand collection was being sold in the 1920s and 1930s.
The half eagle was in all likelihood sold to Waldo Newcomer and then likely went into the Colonel Green collection. From there it is believed to have been sold to King Farouk and remained in this collection until it was forcibly sold at auction in 1954. It was later sold to a prominent Texas collector (not Harry Bass, by the way...) by Abe Kosoff in 1959. I was shown the Proof half eagle in the early 1990s by the Texas dealer Michael Brownlee. It was still in the original flip with Kosoffs writing on it. I used it as the cover coin of the first edition of my New Orleans book.
To read the complete article, see: Douglas Winter Market Report November 5, 2008 (http://www.raregoldcoins.com/market_report211.asp)
A number of top numismatists (all E-Sylum readers, of course) commented on the coin and debated its origin and provenance. -Editor
To read the complete PCGS forum thread, see: Longacre, did you loan this gold coin to the New Orleans Mint? (http://forums.collectors.com/messageview.cfm?catid=26&threadid=686997)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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