In the Spotlight: The Arlington Collection 1861-S Paquet $20 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle
CERTIFICATION: NGC AU55
NGC Population: 16/9 finer
PCGS Population: 4/2 finer
Overall Rarity: Approx. 90-100
AU and MS Rarity: Approx. 15-20
Overall Rank: 6 of 44 coins
AU and MS Rank: 4 of 44 coins
Mintage Rank *: 8 of 42 coins
* 42 coins due to 1853 and 1854 varieties being combined
According to An Insider's Guide to Collecting Type 1 Double Eagles by Douglas Winter and Adam Crum, the
Arlington Collection's 1861-S double eagle would qualify as condition census, which by their definition would rank this in the top 5 of 6 examples known.
The 1861-S Paquet reverse double eagle was once thought to have been just a pattern coin. The problem with this logic is that pattern coins were only minted in Philadelphia, not San Francisco. Also, the fact that this coin was released into circulation makes this a regular issue and not a pattern.
The coin gets its name from its designer, Assistant Engraver Anthony C. Paquet. The most noticable difference between the Paquet reverse and the earlier design is that the lettering on the Paquet is noticably taller.
But this coin should not exist. Apparently the feeling was that the coin's rim was two narrow and would cause problems. A message was sent to San Francisco telling them to halt production and revert back to the old reverse die design. Unfortunately (or fortunately for collectors), the telegraph only went as far as Missouri. By the time the message arrived in San Francisco, 19,250 coins with the Paquet reverse had already been struck and released into circulation.
This San Francisco double eagle is very popular among collectors due to it being the only double eagle with the Paquet reverse that was released into circulation. As a result, this coin is a must have for type collectors. Because of this demand, the 1861-S Paquet reverse has a significantly higher premium attached to it than other double eagles of similar rarity and grade.
Nevertheless, the 1861-S Paquet reverse is the rarist of all the San Francisco type 1 double eagles, just beating out the 1866-S No Motto for the title. There are no known uncirculated examples and it is a good bet that some of the totals in the NGC population count are the same coin being resubmitted multiple times. Moving up from AU55 to AU58 would increase the value of the coin by tens of thousands of dollars. Now that I look at it, I think mine deserves a grade of AU58!
There are two Philadelphia examples of the Paquet reverse but these were never officially released into circulation. There was a feeling that the rim was too narrow and would cause problems when struck. So the Philadelphia coins were apparently melted with the exception of the two known examples. One example is graded MS67 and was once in the Norweb Collection. This coin was displayed by Monaco Financial at the September 2005 Long Beach show were I was able to snap a picture of it.
The Norweb example is said to be worth $10,000,000 today. This coin was part of the recent Noe scandal in Ohio. Apparently this coin was part of one of the coin funds involved in the scandal. After the coin was sold from the fund, it remained listed on the fund's inventory for years afterwards.
The other example is graded MS61 and was purchased at an auction in August 2006 in Denver by Monaco Financial for a sum of $1,600,000. I'm sure we will be seeing this coin in a future display of Monaco's. I only hope I get the chance to see it and snap a photo of it.
The 1861-P Paquet Reverse is coin #33 in 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (2nd Ed.) by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
The 1861-S Paquet Reverse is coin #99 in 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (2nd Ed.) by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
100 Greatest U.S. Coins
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