So...You've Decided to Collect (A Set Of) Dahlonega Half Eagles...

So...You've Decided to Collect (A Set Of) Dahlonega Half Eagles...

Of the four denominations struck at the Dahlonega mint, half eagles are the largest in size and have—by far—the most struck; both in terms of individual dates and total produced. This denomination was made from 1838 through 1861, and there were a total of 26 issues.

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Battle of the Classic Head Fives: The 1838-C vs. The 1838-D

Battle of the Classic Head Fives: The 1838-C vs. The 1838-D

If you ask most casual collectors which of these two issues is the rarer or more desirable, I’m guessing most would select the 1838-D. Let’s look at the Tale of the Tape for each issue and then I will add some analysis.

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How Rare Are Choice High-Grade Dahlonega Half Eagles?

How Rare Are Choice High-Grade Dahlonega Half Eagles?

Since I wrote the first of my three editions of Dahlonega gold books over two decades ago, I’ve sought to constantly remind collectors that truly choice, high-grade (in this instance high-grade equates to coins which grade AU55 and above) Dahlonega half eagles are rare, regardless of how “common” the issue seems to be in terms of overall rarity.

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1842-D SD $5.00 PCGS VF35 CAC

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.

1843-D $5.00 PCGS AU53 CAC

Medium D mintmark variety. Very well struck as is typically the case of this date and variety with full radial lines within the stars and sharp, individually defined hair and feather details. The color is an attractive medium to deep green gold which is "correct" for original examples of this date. This coin would probably grade AU55 or even AU58 if it were not for the presence of a reeding mark on Liberty's throat and small, thin nick on the cheek. A great piece for the type collector or a good piece for the new Dahlonega specialist who wants to get his feet wet with a nice quality but affordable half eagle.

1856-D $5.00 NGC EF45

I almost never see this date in the EF grades. Most 1856-D half eagles are in higher grades (AU53 and up) and this is due to the presence of a hoard as well as a lack of circulation. But this piece is not only a Choice EF, it has lovely warm reddish-gold color at the borders and smooth, lightly abraded surfaces. The strike is typically soft with the radial lines in the stars very flat and somewhat beveled edges.

1853-D $5.00 PCGS AU58

Large D Mintmark. This choice slider has good luster and pleasing medium orange-gold colors on the obverse and the reverse. The strike is somewhat above-average for the issue with less beveling at the rims than usual but some overall bluntness at the centers and on the radial lines of the stars. There is just the slightest amount of friction seen on the high points of the obverse; the reverse is fully Uncirculated and grades MS61 or better on its own. The fields are a bit scuffy with a few shallow marks seen on both sides. The 1853-D is among the more available half eagles from this mint but choice, original AU58 examples like this are not easy to locate. Personally, I'd rather have this coin in my collection than the typical rubby, dipped MS61 at nearly double the price.

1847-D $5.00 PCGS EF45 CAC

Deep reddish-gold hues are seen on the obverse and the reverse with the reverse the darker of the two sides. The underlying surfaces show some scattered marks that are consistent with the assigned grade. Well detailed, appealing and a perfect type coin for the collector seeking a single affordable example of a half eagle from the popular Dahlonega mint.

1858-D $5.00 NGC AU50 CAC

Nice even deep toning on the obverse favors russet and green-gold hues with greater depth seen at the borders than at the centers. The strike is sharp and even while the surfaces are free of significant marks. The 1858-D is certainly not a rare date but it seen far less often than the 1852-D, 1853-D and 1854-D half eagles. A nice, affordable type coin for the new collector who wants a solid, attractive Dahlonega half eagle for under three thousand