Most collectors (and dealers) have never seen a Gem Uncirculated Charlotte half eagle. I recently had the pleasure of handling one of the finest known Charlotte half eagles of any date—the Eliasberg 1842-C Large Date—and thought it would be interesting to readers of this blog. This 1842-C Large Date half eagle has been graded MS65 by NGC. It is one of just a small handful of Charlotte half eagles of any date that have ever been graded MS65 (or better) by the services. In fact, as of March 2008, PCGS had only graded a single Charlotte half eagle in MS65 (1847-C) while NGC had graded four individual coins including this one in MS65 (the others are an 1846-C, 1852-C, 1855-C and 1857-C) plus a single coin in MS66 (1849-C).
Before we discuss the specifics of this coin, let’s look at some of the background about the date. The 1842-C Large Date has an original mintage of 23,589. An estimated 90-110 are known including as many as seven to nine in Uncirculated. The present coin is, obviously, the finest. There are also two graded MS64 by NGC and a pair graded MS63 by PCGS. I rank the 1842-C Large Date as the fifth rarest of 24 Charlotte half eagles in overall rarity and the seventh rarest in high grades.
This particular coin has a long and illustrious pedigree. It last appeared at public auction in Stack’s 1995 Milas Collection sale where it brought $44,000 in an NGC MS64 holder. Prior to being in the Milas collection, it was Lot 421 in the October 1982 Eliasberg sale where it brought $17,600. It has been acquired by Eliasberg from the Clapp collection in 1942 and before this it was sold to John Clapp, Sr. by the dealer Elmer Sears in 1920.
The first question any smart collector should ask about this coin is "is it really an MS65?" Despite the fact that it once resided in an MS64 holder (albeit way back in 1995...) I would resoundingly say "yes, it is unquestionably a Gem by today’s standards."
When you look at the photo of this coin, there are a few things that immediately stand out. The first is this coin’s exceptional luster. Yes, I realize that you can not accurately capture the true essence of luster in an image but on a coin like this-that is literally dripping with original mint luster-you can get a pretty decent idea of it. The second thing that is apparent is this coin’s amazing color. Both the obverse and the reverse have fabulous intense yellow gold hues that are accentuated by the full, unbroken frost. Even from an image, you can detect that this coin is original and has never been dipped or "improved."
Some collectors might look at this coin and say that it can’t possibly grade MS65 because it has marks visible in the obverse fields. I would respond to this as follows. First, the current standards of the MS65 grade do not imply that such a coin is perfect. An MS65 will show some light, unobtrusive marks; primarily in the most open part(s) of a coin design. Secondly, some allowance must be made for the fact that this is a branch mint coin from the 1840’s. Sophisticated graders of coins realize that you can’t take the standards of a Philadelphia half eagle from, say, the 1890’s and apply it to a Charlotte coin from 1842. But that said, I honestly believe that even if this exact coin was a common Liberty Head half eagle it would still be assigned an MS65 grade.
The most important thing about grading a coin like this is to consider its overall eye appeal. This 1842-C Large Date half eagle is absolutely beautiful with great detail, superb luster, splendid color and very nice surfaces. These individual factors make it far too nice to assign an MS64 grade to it. Another way of looking at this coin is to ask the question, "would I sell this in an MS64 holder?" If an exact twin of this coin came up to my table at a coin show in an MS64 holder (and it was priced like an MS64) I would write a check in about five seconds and have it cracked out and ready for regrading in about fifteen seconds. And if it didn’t grade MS65 right away, I would continue to try to get this grade.
In my opinion, the Eliasberg 1842-C Large Date is among the best No Motto half eagles of any date that I have seen in many years and it is certainly among the best half dozen half eagles known from this mint. Even a Jaded Dealer such as me gets a tingle out of coins like these and I’m sure it will be a long time before I handle another Gem Charlotte half eagle.