It is difficult to call an issue as expensive as the 1878-CC half eagle “underpriced” but it is my opinion that this is easily the most underappreciated half eagle from this mint; if not the single most underappreciated gold coin of any denomination made at this facility.
The 1878-CC is the third rarest Carson City half eagle in terms of overall rarity (i.e., the total number known) with fewer than 100 known from the original mintage of 9,054. This date shows a condition distribution more akin to the early CC half eagles than the later dates with survivors likely to show extensive wear. In fact, I’d say that well over 80% of all 1878-CC half eagles grade EF or lower.
In higher grades (AU and finer), the 1878-CC is really rare with likely less than 10-12 known. There are around three or four properly graded AU55’s and another two or three which grade AU58. I have seen no more than three or four high(er) grade examples which I regard as choice and original, and the 1878-CC is a bona-fide appearance rarity; more on this in a second.
There is a single Uncirculated piece known, an NGC MS63 which supposedly was discovered in Alaska (of all places!) around 20 or so years ago. I have never seen this coin but I consider it to be among the all-time great gold coins from Carson City.
Despite all this acclaim, the 1878-CC half eagle would make few collectors’ Top Ten lists of the most interesting or the most desirable Carson City gold coin.
I have built more than a dozen high-quality complete sets of Carson City half eagles and each time, I considered the inclusion of a nice 1878-CC to be the crowning achievement of the set; along with the 1873-CC. Both dates are true appearance rarities and this is verified by CAC populations for these two dates.
CAC has approved 11 1878-CC half eagles but this number includes 6 pieces graded VF35 and below. In EF, only 1 has been stickered (an EF45), while 4 have been blessed in AU (1 each in AU50, 53, 55, and 58).
So, I’ve made a compelling case for the rarity of this date. Why is it underappreciated?
The 1878-CC is not well-known outside of the specialist community. I’m willing to bet that if I had AU55 examples of the 1870-CC and 1878-CC half eagles in my case at a major show, the former would stop people in their tracks while the latter might be overlooked by most collectors.
Why are most 1878-CC half eagles so ratty while their also-rare counterparts the 1878-CC eagle and double eagle can sometimes be found with good eye appeal? I think the first reason is that the 1878-CC half eagle is never found with the “Euro” look indicative of storage in an overseas bank vault. A small number of 1878-CC eagles and a slightly greater number of 1878-CC double eagles were shipped overseas and have been repatriated. The 1878-CC half eagle saw heavy circulation and it is the last CC issue of this denomination seen with any frequency in very low grades. Finally, this is an issue which has been mistreated by collectors and dealers. A significant number have been cleaned or processed over the years, leaving us with very few pieces with natural surfaces.
A word of advice to the CC half eagle specialist: you are going to find very few nice 1878-CC’s so if and when you do, be prepared to pounce.
Are you searching for a killer 1878-CC half eagle? Would you like a world-class expert to assist you in building a set of Carson City half eagles? Call Doug Winter at 214-675-9897 and let’s discuss how I can assist you.