The Liberty Double Eagle series is filled with rarities during its 57 years of production from 1850 to 1907. Some of these rarities were were the result of extremely low original mintages, while others were created due to extensive circulation which left few or no survivors in uncirculated condition. Some rarities, like the 1854-O Double Eagle, were created through a combination of both factors. The 1854-O, together with the 1856-O Double Eagle, represent two of the absolute key dates to a set of double eagles struck at the New Orleans Mint.
The twenty dollar denomination was first struck as a pattern in 1849 and regular production commenced at the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints in 1850. The denomination carried twice the value of the ten dollar gold piece which had been authorized as the highest value in the American monetary system in 1792 and was born as a direct result of the California Gold Rush. Immense quantities of gold were flowing out of California and much of it was sent to both the New Orleans and Philadelphia Mints.
Mintage levels during the initial years of double eagle production at the two facilities were correspondingly high. The situation would change in 1854 when the San Francisco Mint opened and became the closest Federal Mint to the gold fields. With much of the gold now deposited and struck into coins at San Francisco, the mintage levels of double eagles at Philadelphia and New Orleans declined dramatically. This was especially the case for New Orleans, which already had relatively small mintages during 1850 to 1853 and would now see levels fall to miniscule levels.