Coin is one of only two 1861 Paquet Reverse Double Eagles

ICG-Independent Coin Grading of Englewood, Colorado-recently certified one of only two known 1861-P Paquet Reverse Double Eagles. The coin was purchased at the Sotheby’s/Stack’s October 29-30, 2001 auction (lot 30) and was clearly that event’s superstar. The coin was featured on the auction catalog’s cover and included a 6-page history of its creation inside. ICG graded the ultra rarity MS62.

The coin is one of the greatest of all rarities in American numismatics and the rarest of all regular-issue double eagles. It is not considered a pattern. The coin was “lost” in 1877 and did not resurface until it was discovered nearly a century later in a bag of double eagles inside a Swiss bank vault. (The other Paquet reverse had been owned by such famous collectors as Lorin Parmelee, Virgil Brand, King Farouk and Henry Norweb.)

The Paquet reverse was the first attempt to refine the design of the reverse of the double eagle, however, because of technical problems, the effort was quickly scuttled by the Mint Director and all but two of the Philadelphia coins ended up being melted.

Anthony C. Paquet, who was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1814, became Assistant Engraver to James Longacre in 1857. After proving himself with numerous assignments at the Mint, he was given the task of redesigning the double eagle’s reverse in 1859. He looked first for inspiration at ancient Roman coins, but it was Paquet’s second design-a simple, but elegantly executed version of Longacre’s original concept as originally drawn, with cleaner, more elegant lettering–which was selected. A few 1860-dated copper patterns were struck along with one in gold (now in the Smithsonian) and the new reverse design was ready for regular production as 1861 began.

The new Paquet reverses began being struck immediately in the new year, but by January 5 production halted. According to the Mint Director, “In preparing the new dies for 1861, a slight deviation in the diameter of the double eagle was inadvertently made.” The Mint was under a great deal of pressure to get the new coinage struck and into circulation, so, rather than fixing the problem, the order was given to use the old reverse design.

For Paquet, the problem was devastating. Mint engravers, despite their talents, were expected to produce workable dies. He was, after this incident, used sparingly at the Mint and in 1864 resigned his position.

The 1861 Paquet reverse gold eagle that ICG graded MS62 has as nearly an interesting pedigree as the history behind the coin itself. The coin is believed to have first been auctioned in 1875 as part of the collection of Col. Mendes I. Cohen. Cohen, from Baltimore, was an explorer and was the first American to sail the length of the Nile. The coin (lot 1314) was described as one of only two such coins and sold for $26, a $6 premium! It went to the collection of George Cram who sold it at auction two years later for $22.25. From there it disappeared for nearly a century. In the mid-1960s the coin was discovered in a bag of double eagles that had sat for years in the vault of a Swiss bank. In 1965 the coin was sold for $7,500. Ten years later was sold again–this time for more than a quarter of a million dollars-to Jeff Browning.

To view this and other ultra rarities that ICG has graded, simply go to ICG’s website at www.icgcoin.com and click on Paquet Reverse Double Eagle. For more information about how you can have your coins graded by ICG contact James Taylor toll-free at 877-221-4424 x203 or on-line at JamesTaylor@ICGcoin.com