Only 100 business-strike Liberty eagles were struck in 1875, making it the lowest mintage regular-issue U.S. gold coin and the premier rarity of the series. PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at eight to nine examples in all grades and no Mint State coins are known, or even rumored. It has been stated that as many as 12 to 15 piece are known, but it appears that figure is on the high side and that the actual number is more likely seven to nine. Only two or three would grade AU, and some of the coins that have been certified are actually impaired proofs. The roster below includes 11 specimens known to us, including one example in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
There was little numismatic interest in Liberty eagles in 1875, as the coins were too expensive for most collectors to set aside. The few numismatists who did collect large denomination gold coins simply ordered one of the 20 proof examples struck that year to update their collections. As a result, no business strikes were saved by contemporary collectors and no Mint State examples have ever been publicly offered. There have only been 13 public offerings of this issue in any grade over the last 20 years and most of the coins are presently in strong hands, so future auction appearances may be even more infrequent.
The present coin is an attractive AU50 PCGS example from the Jacobson Collection which we believe is tied for second-finest known (the AU55 coin in the NGC Census is actually a circulated proof and we believe the AU53 specimen in the PCGS Population Report is a prior submission of the AU53+ example in their listings). Although the 1875 eagle has been something of a sleeper in the past, collectors are beginning to appreciate the rarity and appeal of this issue in recent times. This particular coin set the auction prices realized record for the issue in its 2018 appearance in the Admiral Collection (Heritage, 2/2018), where it brought $372,000. The AU53+ PCGS example in Stack’s Bowers 2011 ANA Auction realized almost as much, as it sold for $345,000. Clearly, collectors have become more aware of the elusive nature and potential value of this classic gold rarity. The 1875 Liberty eagle seems poised to join the other outstanding rarities in the U.S. federal series at the highest level of commercial value and pride of ownership.
This coin exhibits only light wear on the strongly impressed design elements, with much interior detail still intact on Liberty’s hair and the eagle’s feathers. Like all examples seen, the pleasing orange-gold surfaces show a number of minor abrasions and some chatter in the fields, but most of the marks are unobtrusive and none are overly distracting. Original mint luster remains in the sheltered areas, mixed with flashes of prooflike reflectivity around the margins. The overall presentation is most attractive. This coin will be a welcome addition to the finest collection or Registry Set.