Unless you check my site regularly, there are probably some interesting pieces that fall though the cracks. They might be very rare and very desirable, but they often sell so quickly that if you don't check the website every day, chances are good that you will miss them. The common theme here is the half eagle denomination, and the coins that I have sold in the last 30 days that I think are worthy of closer examination are: a 1799 Small Stars in PCGS MS62 (with CAC approval); an 1827 graded MS62 by PCGS (and approved by CAC); an 1871 graded MS61 by PCGS and approved by CAC; and an 1874 graded MS62 by PCGS which wasn't sent to CAC, but which would almost certainly being approved if it was.
Let's take a look at each coin, learn a bit about each, and discuss what makes each of these coins so special.
This coin was one of my favorite purchases at the Chicago ANA and it was obtained in a private treaty sale with a leading wholesaler who, to be honest, I don't generally do that much business with. But I saw this coin in his case, immediately fell in love with it, and bought it for what I thought was a fair price.
The 1799 is among my favorite 18th century half eagles. It has a reported mintage of 7,451 but I think this figure is a bit on the low side and some coins dated 1799 were struck in 1800 and later. The probable mintage figure is more likely in the 10,000-12,500 range but this is still a scarce issue in all grades.
For variety collectors, the 1799 is a very interesting year with no less than nine varieties known. Most show small stars on the reverse. The variety illustrated here is BD-2, which has an estimated surviving population of fewer than 50 in all grades.
As a date, the 1799 is scarce but it becomes quite rare in Uncirculated. This coin was the first 1799 in PCGS MS62 to be made available to collectors since ANR 11/09: 3667 (which sold for $43,700 and was slabbed by PCGS). The only finer example to sell in the last five years is Heritage 5/07: 2278, graded MS63 by PCGS, that brought $63,250.
As you can see from the photo, this 1799 half eagle is a really attractive coin with semi-prooflike fields covered with splashes of reddish-gold and orange color. It is well struck, well-made, and high-end with just a few marks in the obverse fields keeping it from a higher grade.
I purchased this 1827 half eagle via private treaty at the Chicago ANA convention. It came from a good supplier of mine and, as far as I can tell, it is fresh to the market.
While 24,913 half eagles were produced in 1827, virtually all were melted by 1834 when the intrinsic value of the Capped Head Left type exceeded the actual face value. As a rule, the half eagle from the 1820's and early 1830's are very rare, and the 1827 is no exception with an estimated three dozen or so pieces known to exist.
Nearly every 1827 half eagle that exists is in Uncirculated due to the fact that this issue saw virtually no commercial use. The few that weren't melted were saved and eventually came into the possession of collectors. There are a few really superb examples known including an NGC MS66 that sold for $322,000 in the Stack's 2008 January auction.
For the grade, this 1827 half eagle is extremely pleasing. As always, the luster is a blend of prooflike reflectiveness and satiny texture. The detail is very sharp and the only noticeable mark on the coin is a small, curving line on Liberty's face that is as made.
After all these years of specializing in rare US gold coins, I still get a thrill from Fat Head half eagles like this and I was pleased to sell this 1827 in MS62 to an advanced collector who appreciated its beauty and rarity.
This next coin is an 1871 half eagle graded MS61 by PCGS and given CAC approval.
The 1871 is a scarce and under-appreciated date. There were only 3,200 examples struck and well under 100 are known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. This date is characterized by heavily abraded surfaces and the marks on most of the known examples are amplified by semi-prooflike reflectiveness.
There are two examples of this date graded MS61 by PCGS and none finer; NGC has graded three in MS61 with none better. The present example is the only Uncirculated 1871 half eagle that has been approved by CAC and it shows wonderful natural orange-gold color atop frosty, lightly abraded surfaces. The other PCGS MS61 last sold as Heritage 7/06: 11559 where it brought $10,063; there have been four NGC auction records for MS61 coins since August of 1996 with prices ranging from a low of $8,625 to a high of $9,488.
I purchased this coin from another dealer at the recent Long Beach show and was pleased to place it with a collector who is working on a set of high quality Liberty Head half eagles. It is quite possible that this piece is the single finest known 1871 half eagle.
The last of the four interesting half eagles that I have sold recently is an 1874 graded MS62 by PCGS. This coin was never sent to CAC for approval, but I imagine it would garner a sticker as it is extremely choice for the grade with lovely color and choice, frosty surfaces.
As with the 1871, this date is overlooked by most non-specialists. Only 3,488 were struck and well under 100 exist in all grades. The 1874 is probably just a hair more available in Uncirculated than the 1871. I believe that there are as many as three or four Uncirculated 1874 half eagles known as compared to two or three (at most) of the 1871.
As I stated above, this coin was graded MS62 by PCGS and it had a wonderful appearance. The only example I know of that is finer is a PCGS MS63 that is ex Heritage 11/06: 2229 (at $20,700) and was earlier Bass II: 1194 (at $20,125).
I was fortunate to handle these four great half eagles in August and early September 2011. If these are the sort of coins that you collect and you were either not aware of them or we are not currently doing business, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss your collecting goals.