There are two varieties of 1846 half eagle known: the common Large Date and the scarce Small Date. The latter is generally seen in EF and AU grades and it is quite scarce in Uncirculated with probably no more than ten to fifteen currently known. This bright, frosty example exhibits light green-gold color and it is sharply impressed. As on all known examples, there is a mint-made raised mark coming from the corner of Liberty's eye; the fields surrounding the portrait have some mint-made roughness and I have seen this on a few 1846 Small Date half eagles as well. If half eagles of this era become more avidly collected (which I can almost assure you they will be...) I believe that this variety will sell for a significant premium given its widely-known scarcity.
Small Date variety. In most instances, a Type One double eagle graded MS60 is a wreck. These coins tend to be either very dull or excessively abraded. The present example is neither and, to the naked eye, it looks more like an MS62. This coin is bright and lustrous with lovely natural light green-gold color that changes slightly to reddish-gold as it is tilted towards a light source. What is most remarkable about this coin, though, is its immaculate nearly mark-free surfaces; certainly not what you expect to see on this date and certainly not in a 60 holder. The 1854 Small Date is extremely scarce in full Uncirculated and I typically don't see more than two or three per year (and almost all of these are in the MS60 to MS61 range). The last Uncirculated 1854 Small Date double eagle to sell at auction was the PCGS MS61 Goldberg 2/11: 1875 coin that brought $10,063. In my opinion, this NGC MS60 is a much more pleasing example with superior eye appeal.
Small Date variety. This choice, original coin shows deep, attractive green-gold color and there is a good deal of dirt in the recesses. I purchased this coin from a dealer who imports American gold coins from Europe and this piece had never seen the light of day in the American coin market until now. It is high end for the grade and as nice as examples that I have seen in AU55 holders. While typically regarded as the more common of the two varieties of 1854-O eagle, I actually see fewer choice Small Dates than I do of the more photogenic Large Date.
Let's say you want a Dahlonega half eagle and you have a budget of around $3,000. You can buy a washed-out boring 1853-D for around $2,250. Or you can spring for a few hundred dollars more and buy a coin like this that is both a scarcer date and choice and original. Or, as we at DWN like to say, a "coin with character." This is a very choice piece with deep natural green-gold color and nice surfaces. Some lightness of strike around the borders is noted and this is not uncommon for the issue. CAC has approved just four in this grade with one finer. A tough date to find with nice color and surfaces.
Small Date variety. Evenly worn and attractive with pleasing deep green-gold and orange hues on the obverse and reverse. The strike is sharper than usual for the issue and the surfaces are very clean with no detracting abrasions. A small dirt spot can be seen at the back of the base of Liberty's neck. This is the scarcer of the two varieties of 1854-O eagle even though the Large Date is generally accorded more respect due to its visual appearance. An affordable, numismatically interesting No Motto eagle from the New Orleans mint.
Small Date variety. An attractive, evenly worn example with nearly enough to detail to grade EF40 but with a few old, well-hidden surface marks keeping this at the Choice VF level. On both sides, the color is a uniform deep green-gold. A scarce date in any grade and a very hard coin to locate with original color and surfaces. This is the only 1842-D Small Date half eagle in any grade below EF40 to have been approved by CAC.