In my February 25, 2009 blog I wrote about (and showed pictures of) the fabulous Bass 1855-C quarter eagle in NGC MS65. I recently handled the Big Brother of this coin, the Elrod 1855-C half eagle also graded MS65 by NGC and I thought I’d share some information and images of this amazing coin. First, a little background. The Elrod 1855-C half eagle has been off the market for close to a decade and has been in the collection of a North Carolina businessman. I can trace the pedigree of this coin back to at least the mid-1970’s when it was obtained by the pioneering collector Stanley Elrod of Matthews, N.C. After trading hands a few times, it was obtained by William Miller, a collector from Michigan. It remained in the Miller collection until it was sold as Lot 6284 in the Heritage February 1999 auction. At this sale, it realized $67,725 which remains a record for the date. The new owner of this coin is an anonymous specialist who is working on one of the finest collections of Charlotte gold ever assembled.
The 1855-C half eagle is the twelfth rarest of twenty-four half eagles struck at the Charlotte mint and it is the eleventh rarest in high grades. I estimate that between 175 and 225 are known with just four or five in Uncirculated. The Elrod coin is, of course, the finest. The other two notable 1855-C half eagles are the Bass/Garrett coin (graded MS63 by PCGS) and the Milas coin (graded MS64 by NGC). Only one die variety is known but there are three die states. The first has a perfect reverse. The second has a light crack joining the base of the letters in FIVE and D. The third, which is rare and distinctive, has a full cud below these letters. The Elrod coin is Die State I.
What makes this coin an unabashed Gem? I personally believe that the two best things about the Elrod 1855-C half eagle is its coloration and its fresh, almost glowing appearance. The coin has amazing rich, frosty luster that is accentuated by sensational medium to deep orange-gold and maize color. The surfaces are almost entirely free of marks with the exception of some mint-made roughness in the planchet which is as struck.
How rare are Charlotte half eagles in Gem Uncirculated? I am aware of eight distinct half eagles from this mint that are regarded within the specialist community as Gems. They are as follows:
1. 1842-C Large Date graded MS65 by NGC
2. 1846-C graded MS65 by NGC (ex: Eliasberg)
3. 1847-C graded MS65 by PCGS (ex: Pittman)
4. 1849-C graded MS66 by NGC
5. 1852-C graded MS65 by NGC
6. 1855-C graded MS65 by NGC (ex: Elrod)
7. 1857-C graded MS65 by NGC (ex: Elrod)
8. 1859-C graded MS66 by PCGS (ex: Milas)
If I had to choose one of the coins above as the single finest known Charlotte half eagle, it would be the Milas 1859-C. But that’s another story that we’ll cover in a future blog. As far as I know the sale of the Elrod 1855-C is the first Gem Charlotte half eagle to occur in a number of years. The other Gem half eagles from this mint are off the market in tightly-held collections and may not be available for quite some time in the future.
Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) specializes in choice and rare branch mint gold and handles many finest known and Condition Census pieces from these mints. For more information regarding the Elrod 1855-C half eagle or any other gold coins from the branch mints, please contact Doug Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org.