As you no doubt know, I am pretty obsessive when it comes to “original” gold coins. I like coins that have an appearance that suggests that they haven’t been fooled with. I recently bought and sold an early gold coin that, in my opinion, was the epitome of an original piece and I’d like to share a photo and some descriptive information. The coin in question was an 1814/3 half eagle graded MS62 by NGC and later approved by CAC.

There are a few things about the color of this coin that are a give-away for its originality. The first is the glow that this particular hue of coppery-orange shows. It is the result of over a century’s worth of toning and mellowing of the surfaces. This sort of color just can’t be reproduced by artificial means. When chemicals are applied to gold coins in an attempt to recapture a reddish-orange hue, the result is usually a shade that I refer to as “Cheeto Orange.” In other words, the orange is just too intense to look real and there is no gradiation or seperation of the hues.

You may also note that the coloration is different in hue in terms of configuration and intensity on the obverse and reverse. On this early half eagle, there are areas in the obverse fields that are dark and somewhat discolored. I’m not exactly certain what caused this but if I had to guess it would be contact with another source like a coin album or some other sort of sulphur-impregated display. Most recolored coins look similar on the obverse and reverse.

Another thing that I have noticed on original early gold coins is that the color seems to become deeper towards the edges. This isn’t always the case but this color scheme is hard to reproduce and many of the coin doctors who play with early gold are not sophisticated enough to know that this is the sort of color that develops of a long period of storage in an album. If you pay particular attention to the reverse of this coin, you will note that the golden-orange hue at the center changes to a deeper reddish-orange at the border. If you experienced at looking at early gold you will recognize this pattern as being “right.”

Note as well the underlying surfaces on both sides. There is a good deal of luster and the luster still exists in a circular pattern. When a coin has been cleaned, the luster is generally broken and the natural cartwheel that is found on unadulterated coins disipates. When this 1814/3 half eagles is rotated, the luster swirls and it does not “break up” like it would on a coin that has been cleaned and later recolored. A good giveaway for artificial color is when there is a splotch of deep color in a specific area on the surfaces. This is often applied in an attempt to hide a problem in this specific area.

How unusual is it to find an early gold coin with color like this 1814/3 half eagle? Obviously if this were an everyday experience, I would not be writing a blog about it and showing the image of the coin as a textbook illustration for originality. There are an estimated 100-125 known examples of this date and if I had to guess, I’d say there are maybe ten known that fit my standards of “originality.” The number of coins with the degree of eye appeal that this shows is another story and I’d be surprised if more than two or three existed.

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2 Responses to What Does An Original Early Gold Coin Look Like?

  1. John Conlin says:

    Hello Doug,

    Thanks for the very informative article on what an original early gold coin looks like! To me, the sublime beauty of early American gold coins (and many other things) comes from the true character that only comes with age. I guess that sadly this has been lost with so many of the early American gold coins. But I am optimistic that this blog and your example and educational info on this topic will help enlighten many of us and be at least one voice of reason that might cause a few more of the rare original old gold coins that are still untouched to remain in their original state. It doesn’t surprise me that many American gold coin collectors might prefer the “bright and shiny” gold coins vs. old and original ones. American’s in general want everything to be new and perfect and, and I think they are missing out on what is really, truly cool, which is usually not new and not perfect…

    I am still grooving on the classic head quarter eagle I was lucky enough to get from you awhile back, and appreciate more than ever it’s true character and the coolness of it’s patina and color variations that came about from 160+ years of natural aging. Your posts like this one to continue to help me build my own knowledge base on early gold, and what to look for regarding these topics. Keep up the good work in enlightening us on this. May you and I, and all the still original old gold coins, both age gracefully and develop true character as we go though life and all it’s insanity!

    “The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.”
    – Aldous Huxley

  2. Hi Doug,

    Lets have the word “orginal” put on slabs. We do it for “Full Heads” on SL Quarters, “Full Steps” Jefferson Nickels and “Bold D” for the not-so-rare 1911-D quarter eagle. I realize that this condition is not “Created” at the mint like the other examples but to me the term is important enough for me to pay much more for this state on an early American gold coin. To state of “orginal” in coins is like opening a bottle of aged wine. The older and original the coin is the better the coins is as aposed to a shiny yellow gold coin that has been cleaned.

    Larry Jackson

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