Sold by Douglas Winter Numismatics: Very Rare Uncirculated 1862-S Half Eagle

This regular DWN blog feature looks at some of the rare and interesting coins which we have sold in recent months. Most of these coins never made it to our website, and instead were quietly sold to collectors who we knew needed specific issues and who we had close personal relationships with.

The 1862-S is the second rarest Civil War era half eagle from the San Francisco mint, trailing only the 1864-S. Of the 9,500 struck, only 45-55 are known with most in lower grades. The reasons for this low survival rate include heavy use in commerce, pervasive meltings, and a lack of local collectors or dealers to save any pieces, as occurred with certain Philadelphia issues from this period.

The 1862-S is especially rare in higher grades. It is doubtful whether as many as 10 “nice” examples are known, and most of the pieces in About Uncirculated holders are lower end pieces with copious abrasions and a lack of original surfaces.

A combination of factors has made this date become suddenly popular after years of neglect. Civil War collectors became much more active a few years ago with the Sesquicentennial of the beginning of the war occurring in 2011. A shift towards western branch mint collecting became subtly noticeable a few years ago as well, partially due to new collectors from the West desiring coins from San Francisco, and more established branch mint gold collectors becoming aware of the true rarity of many of the San Francisco issues, especially in higher grades.

Recently Sold by DWN: 1862-S $5.00 PCGS MS61

Recently Sold by DWN: 1862-S $5.00 PCGS MS61

There are either two or three Uncirculated 1862-S half eagles known. The finest, graded MS62 by PCGS, is owned by a prominent east coast specialist and it is likely the ANR 8/06: 1454 coin which brought a robust $43,700 (in a PCGS MS61 holder) at a time when few people were concerned with this coin’s true rarity in Uncirculated. The present example, now owned by a western collector, was recently “crossed” by PCGS from an NGC MS61 holder. NGC shows a second coin in MS61 but my guess is that this is a resubmission and that, as of today, there are no longer any Uncirculated 1862-S half eagles in NGC holders.

This date is characterized by excessive abrasions and while this example does show some scattered marks, consistent with the grade, it is relatively clean for the issue. It has likely been dipped at one time but the surfaces have good luster and do not show signs of having been “processed” with an abrasive substance. The strike is relatively sharp for the issue and the overall level of eye appeal is excellent for the date and grade.

Prior to selling this coin, the finest 1862-S half eagle I had handled was a PCGS AU55 and according to my records, I have handled just four different examples in the last decade.

This was an exciting coin for me to handle and it was a smooth transaction for me and the buyer who was happy to add it to his incredible collection.

Do you want to be offered coins like this 1862-S half eagle in PCGS MS61? Email me at and let’s see if we can get you started on a collection which features rarities such as this.