In the Spotlight: The Arlington Collection 1850 $20 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle
CERTIFICATION: NGC MS61
SS Republic Population: 2/0 finer (Tied for Finest Known)
NGC Population: 29/39 finer
PCGS Population: 10/30 finer
Overall Rarity: Approx. 1500-2000
Mint State Rarity: Approx. 30-50
Overall Rank: 36 of 44 coins
Mint State Rank: 27 of 44 coins
Mintage Rank *: 37 of 42 coins
* 42 coins due to 1853 and 1854 varieties being combined
The Arlington Collection's 1850 double eagle is one of two graded MS61, with none finer, recovered from the SS Republic shipwreck, tying it as the finest known from the shipwreck for that date and mint.
1850 is the first year of issue for the double eagle. There is a unique 1849 specimen generally regarded as a proof, but in fact, is a pattern.
There was a single obverse master die used for all double eagles from 1850 through 1858. A new obverse master die was created for 1859 and used through the end of the type 1 double eagles. There are two differences, among others, that can be easily seen upon close inspection.
The first difference is that the master die used from 1850 until 1858 had the word LIBERTY misspelled as LLBERTY which was corrected by placing the I over the second L.
The second difference is that the engraver's initials, J.B.L. for James B. Longacre, were moved from under the hair curls further to the left on the neck truncation.
This date is very popular among collectors due to it being the first year of issue and the fact that it is relatively common overall among type 1 double eagles with over 1000 examples believed to exist. But as you can see from the rarity totals above, the coin is very rare in mint state with no more than 50 examples believed to exist. A total of 55 coins were recovered from the SS Republic shipwreck with only three of those grading mint state.
Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins: 1795 - 1933, Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues
A guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins: A Complete History and Price Guide