What Does An Original Early Gold Coin Look Like?

As you no doubt know, I am pretty obsessive when it comes to "original" gold coins. I like coins that have an appearance that suggests that they haven't been fooled with. I recently bought and sold an early gold coin that, in my opinion, was the epitome of an original piece and I'd like to share a photo and some descriptive information. The coin in question was an 1814/3 half eagle graded MS62 by NGC and later approved by CAC.

There are a few things about the color of this coin that are a give-away for its originality. The first is the glow that this particular hue of coppery-orange shows. It is the result of over a century's worth of toning and mellowing of the surfaces. This sort of color just can't be reproduced by artificial means. When chemicals are applied to gold coins in an attempt to recapture a reddish-orange hue, the result is usually a shade that I refer to as "Cheeto Orange." In other words, the orange is just too intense to look real and there is no gradiation or seperation of the hues.

You may also note that the coloration is different in hue in terms of configuration and intensity on the obverse and reverse. On this early half eagle, there are areas in the obverse fields that are dark and somewhat discolored. I'm not exactly certain what caused this but if I had to guess it would be contact with another source like a coin album or some other sort of sulphur-impregated display. Most recolored coins look similar on the obverse and reverse.

Another thing that I have noticed on original early gold coins is that the color seems to become deeper towards the edges. This isn't always the case but this color scheme is hard to reproduce and many of the coin doctors who play with early gold are not sophisticated enough to know that this is the sort of color that develops of a long period of storage in an album. If you pay particular attention to the reverse of this coin, you will note that the golden-orange hue at the center changes to a deeper reddish-orange at the border. If you experienced at looking at early gold you will recognize this pattern as being "right."

Note as well the underlying surfaces on both sides. There is a good deal of luster and the luster still exists in a circular pattern. When a coin has been cleaned, the luster is generally broken and the natural cartwheel that is found on unadulterated coins disipates. When this 1814/3 half eagles is rotated, the luster swirls and it does not "break up" like it would on a coin that has been cleaned and later recolored. A good giveaway for artificial color is when there is a splotch of deep color in a specific area on the surfaces. This is often applied in an attempt to hide a problem in this specific area.

How unusual is it to find an early gold coin with color like this 1814/3 half eagle? Obviously if this were an everyday experience, I would not be writing a blog about it and showing the image of the coin as a textbook illustration for originality. There are an estimated 100-125 known examples of this date and if I had to guess, I'd say there are maybe ten known that fit my standards of "originality." The number of coins with the degree of eye appeal that this shows is another story and I'd be surprised if more than two or three existed.

The 1823 Half Eagle

As a specialist in rare United States gold coins, there are few series that I find more interested than the Capped Head half eagles produced from 1813 through 1834. I recently purchased (and quickly sold) a PCGS graded AU53 1823 half eagle. This date, by the standards of the type, is no big deal. But the more I researched the 1823, the more I realized that it is an underrated and enigmatic issue.

The so-called Fat Head series is typically divided into segments: dates that are obtainable (1813, 1814, 1818 and 1820) and those that range from virtually unobtainable to impossible. What's interesting about the 1823 is that it is really the only issue of this type that is clearly rare but which is not an extreme rarity. Let's take a more in-depth peek at this issue.

The 1823 has the lowest recorded mintage of any half eagle made between 1821 and 1834 with only 14,485 having been struck. There are an estimated 70-90 known and nearly all of these are in the AU58 to MS62 range. As with nearly all half eagles from the 1820's, the 1823 saw very little in the way of actual circulation and virtually all of the mintage was melted in 1834 when the weight of gold coins was lowered.

It should be pointed out that mintage figures of half eagles from the 1820's are probably highly inaccurate. I feel that many of the coins struck in 1820 were actually dated 1821, 1822 and 1823. At some point, it may be possible to breakdown these mintages more accurately but it is not currently possible.

There are a few very choice 1823 half eagles known. The finest that I am aware of is the one in the Bass core collection which is ex Norweb I: 774. It sold to Harry Bass for $52,800 all the way back in 1987 which is still an uaction record for this date (!) I grade the coin MS64+ to MS65 and it has superb original luster and color. The second best that I have seen is James Stack: 1069 that sold in October 1994 for $35,200. I grade this coin MS64 or better by today's standards.

NGC has graded one example of this date in MS65 (the Stack coin?) as well as one in MS64. PCGS has never graded an MS65 but does show five in MS64. My hunch is that this number is slightly inflated by resubmissions.

As with all half eagles from the 1820's, the 1823 is a well-produced issue. It is typically fairly sharply struck although I have seen examples that are weak on the curls above Liberty's eyes and a few of the stars lacked their radial lines. High grade 1823's show splendid rich, frosty luster and original uncleaned pieces have lovely rich orange-gold color.

One of the more curious facts about the 1823 half eagle is its current pricing structure. The most recent Coin Values has a value of $13,500 for this issue in AU50 (which seems about right) and a value of $14,500 in AU55. It is hard to imagine that the value of an AU55 would only be $1,000 than an AU50 but I'm assuming that part of this has to do with the fact that so few AU 1823's are known that a small jump in grade doesn't equate to a large jump in value. Right?

Every series has a date or two that fall through the cracks and in the fabulous Fat Head fives from the 1820's and 1830's it seems that the 1823 is (currently) getting the short end of the proverbial stick. This date does not sell for an especially large premium over dates like the 1813, 1814, 1818 and 1820 but it is many times scarcer. Obviously, few people collect Fat Head fives by date so prices for this series are not as carefully scrutinized as Indian Head quarter eagles. That said, it seems to me that the 1823 is a very undervalued issue and it is a coin that I look forward to owning more of in the future.

The Half Eagles of 1818

There are just a handful of Capped Bust Large Diameter half eagles produced from 1813 through 1829 that are not very rare. This type includes some of the rarest United States gold issues ever produced so the type collector is left with essentially four dates that are sometimes available: 1813, 1814/3, 1818 and 1820. In my opinion, the 1818 is one of the most interesting of these four issues and it is certainly one of the most misunderstood.

The original mintage for this year is believed to have been 48,588. As with all of the half eagles produced during this decade, a significant percentage of these coins were melted between the year they were produced and the mid-1830’s. This is, of course, due to the fact that the half eagle denomination had its weight reduced in 1834, making the “old style” pieces worth more than face value. For most dates, well over 95% were melted and in the case of the 1818 there are probably no more than 200-250 examples known.

Given the fact that this issue saw little circulation domestically, the majority of the surviving 1818 half eagles tend to be in Uncirculated grades. The small number of circulated examples that do exist are often in the AU53 to AU58 range and these may not have much in the way of wear but tend to show light cabinet friction or signs of numismatic mishandling.

There are three distinct varieties of 1818 half eagle known. All are recognized by PCGS and NGC and each is considered to be an integral part of a date set of Capped Bust half eagles. Let’s take a quick look at each of the three varieties.

1. Normal Dies (Bass Dannreuther-1). The obverse of this variety has a unique feature that is not seen on any other 1818 half eagle. Each star shows a “notch” which is believed to be a signature used by John Reich to indicate that this die was his work. But the obverse is not the side of this coin that specialists use to determine its BD number. This is the only one of the three varieties of half eagle for this year that has a “normal” reverse. The words STATES OF are properly spaced and there is no recutting on the value.

Bass and Dannreuther estimate that between 10,000 and 15,000 examples of this variety were struck and that 50-65 exist. I tend to agree with these estimates. This variety is generally seen in the AU55 to MS61 range and is often characterized by softness of strike at the centers. The coloration is typically a distinctive orange-gold and most have been lightened or processed. The finest I am aware of is Goldberg 2/01: 4009 ($51,750), ex: Superior 2/99: 3184 ($52,900) which has been graded MS65 by PCGS.

The 1818 Normal Dies is the second scarcest of the three varieties known for this year and I think it is an underappreciated issue.

2. STATESOF variety (BD-2). This variety has a different obverse than the Normal Dies but it is immediately recognizable by having virtually no spacing between the words STATES and OF.

Bass and Dannreuther estimate that between 25,000 and 35,000 examples of this variety were produced and that 100 to 125 survive. I think this estimate may be a touch on the low side but the actual number known is almost certainly less than 150.

This variety is the least scarce of the three 1818 half eagles and it is typically seen in Uncirculated grades. I can’t recall having seen more than a handful that graded lower than AU55 and this suggests that the 1818 STATESOF saw little use in circulation. Most examples are better struck than the other varieties for this year and original, untampered with pieces may show excellent frosty luster that is complimented by light to medium lemon-gold hues.

The finest known 1818 STATESOF half eagle is a remarkable PCGS MS66 that was once part of the Norman Stack type set. It is one of the finest half eagles of this type that I have ever seen or am aware of. The current auction record for this variety is held by Heritage 5/07: 2289 that brought $109,250. It is graded MS64 by PCGS.

3. 5D/50 variety (BD-3). The obverse of this third and final variety is different than that seen on BD-1 or BD-2. But it is the blunder on the reverse that gives this variety its notoriety. The D in the denomination was originally cut over a zero; not because the engraver thought this was a half dollar. This reverse was reused in 1819 with the Wide Date obverse.

Bass and Dannreuther believe that between 7,500 and 10,000 were struck and that there are 35-45 survivors. Given the rarity of this issue, these figures seem accurate. This is a rare coin in all grades and most are in the lower Uncirculated grades. There are a few Gems known including a PCGS MS66 and a PCGS MS65 that was last sold as Goldberg 5/01: 1351, where it realized $71,875.

I’ve had the good fortune to handle all three varieties in the past few months and was able to quickly sell each. These 1818 half eagles are some of the more interesting early half eagles and it would be a fun but not overly-ambitious challenge to acquire all three in reasonably comparable grades.

1825/4 Half Eagle

Lost amid the hoopla of the recent Baltimore ANA and the numerous auctions that accompanied this show was the sale of one of the greatest United States gold coins in existence. Even more remarkable was the fact that in this day of “ho hum, another million dollar coin just sold,” this sale received relatively little publicity and the final price realized was, in retrospect, pretty reasonable, all things considered. There are two distinct varieties known of the 1825 half eagle. The more available is 1825/4 Unevenly Spaced Date (Bass-Dannreuther 1) which, for many years, was known as the “1825/1.” Recent research has shown that the underpunched digit is, in fact a 4 as it is positioned at the same angle as found on the 1824 half eagle.

1825 $5 N50

The second variety of 1825 half eagle (BD-2) has always been known as an 1825/4 overdate but it is more properly termed the 1825/4 Evenly Spaced Close Date.

For many years, the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle was regarded as unique. The discovery piece was originally in the Col. Mendes Cohen collection and it was eventually sold to Louis Eliasberg after stints in the Earle and Clapp collections. In the 1982 Eliasberg sale, the coin was cataloged as Proof-60 and it sold for $220,000. I have never personally seen the Eliasberg 1825/4 half eagle but John Dannreuther states in his book on early gold that, in his opinion, it is not a Proof.

In 1978, a second example of the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle turned up and this story of its discovery is almost as fascinating as the coin itself. In the early part of the 20the century, a collector named N.M. Kaufman was an active (but little known) purchaser of early gold rarities. His collection was exhibited at the Marquette County Savings Bank. Unfortunately, the curator of this exhibit was clearly not a savvy numismatist as he mounted them to a board using tacks (for those of you who just passed out after reading this, I will pause for a second...) Many of the Kauffman coins suffered rim damage from this procedure, ranging from very minor to rather severe.

The Kaufman example of the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle was sold by RARCOA in their famous August 1978 auction where it realized $140,000. It later brought $148,500 in the B&M 3/89 auction and in 1992 it sold in another B&M auction for a very reasonable $105,600. The last time the coin sold it realized $241,500 in the Superior 2/99 auction.

The coin itself was housed in an old NGC holder and it appeared to be considerably better than its current AU50 grade. However, I’d be careful cracking it out if I were the new owner as the rim marks from the aforementioned display at the Marquette Bank will become more visible if the coin is unencapsulated (this is not intended to scare the new owner of the coin—in looking at the photo of it in the Kaufman catalog, it appears that the tack marks are minor and limited to the upper obverse and corresponding reverse. I have personally seen—and owned—coins from this collection that had significantly more visible tack marks).

Given the rarity of this coin (one of only two known) and the fact that it brought close to a quarter of a million dollars all the way back in 1999, I expected that this coin would be the object of considerable bidding and that it had a legitimately good chance to break the million dollar barrier.

The reserve for the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle in the Heritage sale was $550,000. The coin wound up selling to a phone bidder for $600,000 plus the buyers’ fee, for a final price realized of $690,000. Why didn’t such a great coin bring more?

As I studied the history of this coin, there was something I learned that I found to be very interesting. On page 395 of his book, John Dannreuther explained the reason why Harry Bass never bought the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle (he had at least three chances to do so between 1978 and 1992 and price, of course, was not an object for Harry...). Bass regarded this issue as a variety and he was not willing to pay an “excessive premium” for this particular variety.

The more I thought about this, the more sense it made to me. Bass realized before nearly anyone else that there was no such thing as an 1825/1 half eagle. Keeping this in mind, he already had a superb 1825/4 (the BD-1 variety that is plated in the Dannreuther book and which is regarded as a one-sided Proof). The bottom line is that he had an 1825/4 half eagle and a hell of a nice one at that. Given this fact, why pay such a large premium for what is technically a variety?

But not everyone is as sophisticated as Harry Bass and the 1825/4 BD-2 half eagle in the ANA seemed to me to be the kind of coin that would sell for “moon money.” I’m certainly not pooh-poohing $690,000 as this is a lot of money but it’s not the $1 million or so that I thought it would bring prior to the sale.

My best guess why it didn’t reach the magical million mark was the fact that it was “only” graded AU50. In order for two Masters of the Universe to go head to head in a bidding Battle of the Titans, my gut feeling is the coin would have had to have been Uncirculated.

So here’s a hearty congratulations to the new owner of this fantastic early half eagle. You have purchased a wonderful coin with a great pedigree and a great story and it will, no doubt, become an integral part of your collection. And if the circumstances had been just right, I’m certain that you would have had to pay a lot more for the privilege of owning your extraordinary 1825/4 half eagle!

Fat Head Fives: A Date By Date Analysis Part One: 1813-1824

The half eagles struck from 1813 through 1834 have been given the appellation of the “Fat Head” design, due to the uncommonly large size of Liberty’s head and neck. John Reich’s half eagles of this era certainly have a “so ugly it’s charming” quality about them. But while they will probably never win a beauty contest, they are a fascinating series of coins which contain a host of great rarities. There are two major types of half eagle known with this design. The first, struck from 1813 to 1829, has a smaller bust with a larger sized planchet. There were a total of 667,536 pieces produced. The second, struck from 1829 through 1834, was modified by William Kneass and these coins show size reduction in the date, stars and lettering as a reduced diameter. There were 700,279 coins struck.

The Fat Head half eagles are a good example why a coin’s true rarity can not be gauged solely by its original mintage figure. The vast majority of half eagles struck between 1813 and 1834 were melted and the survival rate for most dates tends to be well under 1% of the original production.

Very few collectors attempt to collect Fat Head half eagles by date. This is due to the extreme rarity of most of these coins and their per-coin price levels. There is only one date in the entire series that is reasonably available (the 1813) and one (the 1822) is considered by many collectors to be among the greatest of all United States numismatic rarities. That said, these coins have become very popular with collectors in the past few years.

This date-by-date analysis is not meant to be a standard reference on this series. Rather, I intend to touch on some basic points on each date so that the collector can make informed decisions if and when he is considering the addition of one of these coins for his type (or date) set.


As mentioned above, the 1813 is by far the most available date of this type. There were a total of 95,428 struck of which an estimated 600-900+ are known today. This is one of the few dates of this design that appears to have actually circulated and examples can be found in grades as low as Extremely Fine. The 1813 is reasonably common in all circulated grades and can even be found in the lower Uncirculated grades without a huge amount of effort. It becomes rare in MS63 and it is very rare in properly graded MS64. Gems are extremely rare. Most 1813 half eagles are yellow-gold or green-gold and have very frosty luster. The strike is usually sharp at the centers but weak at the borders with many of the denticles not completely defined. I have seen a number with adjustment marks and others with dark spots. Due to the availability of this date, it is the perfect Fat Head Five for the collector seeking a single piece for a type set.

There are two varieties known. The more common shows the first S in STATES over the right side of the E in E PLURIBUS UNUM. The scarcer variety has the first S over the left side of the E.


The mintage for this date has traditionally been believed to be 15,454 coins but some contemporary researchers believe that the actual figure might be as low as 10,000. Given the fact that there are probably no more than 75-100 examples known, I would tend to concur with the lower mintage. This variety shows a clear overdate and it is considerably rarer than the 1813 although it does not get a substantial premium over this common issue, especially in lower grades. The 1814/3 tends to be much better struck than the 1813 with strong detail noted at the centers and borders. The color is typically a deep green-gold hue which is sometimes accentuated by orange-gold shadings. The luster is frosty but not as good as seen as on the 1813. The 1814/3 is usually seen in AU to MS61 grades. It is very scarce in MS62 and rare in properly graded MS63. This is a very rare issue in MS64 and I am not aware of a single coin that could be called a Gem by today’s standards.

There is just a single variety known. The reverse is the same as seen on the second variety struck in 1813 and it was also used to produce the very rare 1815 half eagles.

1815 The 1815 has the lowest mintage figure of any half eagle of this type. Only 635 are believed to have been struck. There are approximately a dozen pieces known and this includes five pieces that are housed in museums. The last example to be sold was the lovely AU58 from the Bass collection that was previously in the Eliasberg sale. It sold for $103,500 in 1999, a figure that seems extremely cheap today. There is a single Gem known (ex: Naftzger collection) which is graded MS65 by PCGS and is in a well-known private collection that, in my opinion, is one of the most impressive early gold coins in existence. This tends to be a well-produced issue with a good strike. The Bass II: 805; Eliasberg coin has superb rich coppery coloration and the other Bass coin (ex Norweb, Farouk), which is housed in the ANA Museum, is attractively toned as well.

All 1815 half eagles have the same reverse as that seen on the second variety of 1813 half eagles and on all 1814’s.


There were no half eagles struck in 1816 or 1817. Coinage resumed in 1818 and a total of 48,588 pieces were produced. There are three important varieties known and these are as follows:

Normal Reverse: This variety is easily distinguished by ample space between the words STATES and OF. This is the second most available of the three varieties. There are around five to six dozen pieces known. Unlike the other two varieties, the Normal reverse is sometimes seen in relatively low grades; I have personally handled at least two in EF40. This variety is most often seen in AU50 to AU55 and it is quite scarce in the lower Uncirculated grades. It is rare in properly graded MS62 and very rare in MS63 or better. There is a single MS65 that has been graded by PCGS while NGC shows a solitary Gem as well. This is the best struck of the three varieties and most are very bold at the centers and borders. Most have rich orange-gold color, very frosty luster and numerous marks on the surfaces.

STATESOF Reverse: On this variety, there is no spacing between these words. It is the most available of the three 1818 half eagles with as many as 125-150 pieces believed to exist. This variety is seldom seen in grades below AU55, suggesting that it did not see a great deal of commercial usage. It is somewhat available in the lower Uncirculated grades and sometimes seen in grades as high as MS63 but it is very rare above this. PCGS has graded one coin in MS66 (ex: Norman Stack type set) which is among the best Fat Head half eagles of this type that I have ever seen. This variety is often somewhat weak at the centers and some of the denticles are not fully brought up as well. The luster is often frosty and the natural coloration is a handsome canary yellow hue.

5D/50 Reverse: This is the rarest of the three varieties known for this year but it is not as rare as has been claimed in the past. This variety was created when the D in 5D was inadvertently punched over a 0. This reverse was used again in 1819. There are an estimated 30-40 pieces known and most are in the AU55 to MS60 range. PCGS has graded two Gems (an MS65 and an MS66) and there appear to be around four to six pieces known in the MS63 to MS64 range. The strike is usually somewhat weak at the borders while the curls are not fully brought up. The natural coloration is a distinctive green-gold hue while the luster is very frosty and sometimes has some semi-prooflike reflectiveness in the fields. Most examples are somewhat scuffy and at least a few have light mint-made adjustment marks.


While the mintage figure for this date is reported to be 51,723, it is believed that this might include coins dated 1820. Whatever the actual number struck (and I personally believe the number is significantly lower than 51,723), the 1819 is unquestionably a very rare coin with an estimated 20-30 pieces known. There are two significant varieties known to exist. The first uses the 5D/50 reverse that is found on 1818 half eagles. This is the more available of the two and it is likely that around 15-22 exist. This includes one or two Gems (PCGS and NGC have both graded coins MS65 although I am not certain if these are the same) and a small number in the MS63 to MS64 range.

The second variety of 1819 half eagle has a different date with the numerals much closer and a normal reverse without the 5D/50 blunder. This is a very rare coin with as few as 5-8 examples known. PCGS has only graded one in any grade (an MS61) while NGC has graded two (an EF40 and an MS60 which may be the same coin as the PCGS MS61). This variety is typically seen only in great collections of early gold and it generally appears at the rate of once every two or three years at auction.


There were more half eagles struck in 1820 than in any other year between the advent of this denomination in 1795 and the beginning of the Classic Head design in 1834. The mintage is reported to be 263,806 but this is somewhat misleading as the great majority of these coins were melted. Today, the 1820 is much scarcer than the 1813 but it is more available than the 1818 and 1814/3. There are no less than nine die varieties of 1820 half eagles including a number of extreme rarities. Most advanced collectors focus on the major varieties of this issue of which there are three. These are as follows:

Square Base 2, Large Letters: There are four die variations of this obvious, naked-eye variety. On the obverse, the base of the 2 is flat while the reverse has the A and the second T in STATES close at the base. This variety is easily the most available of the 1820 half eagles. It is almost always seen in Uncirculated grades and this suggests that most were either melted soon after they were struck or were stored in banks and did not enter commerce. Survivors often have exceptional luster which can be frosty or prooflike in texture and vivid rich yellow-gold or green-gold shadings. Most of the Uncirculated coins that exist are in the MS62 to MS63 range. The current population at PCGS in MS64 (55 coins!) is greatly inflated by resubmissions and Gems are extremely rare.

Curved Base 2, Large Letters: There are two die variations of the 1820 Curved Base 2, Large Letters. The more available of the two has the tip of the bottom arrowhead pointing to the outside of the C in AMERICA. It is unlikely that more than two dozen 1820 Curved Base 2, Large Letters half eagles are known. Most of these are Uncirculated coins and many of these are choice examples that grade in the MS63 to MS64 range. The finest known is a PCGS MS66. When available, this variety tends to come very well struck, with excellent luster and superb green-gold or rich yellow-gold coloration. A Proof exists in the Bass collection at the ANA Museum and this is regarded as the earliest known Proof half eagle. It is an absolutely spectacular coin in person!

Curved Base 2, Small Letters: Three die varieties of the 1820 Curved Base 2 Small Letters are known and all are very rare. In all, it is likely that fewer than fifteen examples exist with nearly all of these grading Uncirculated. Interestingly, the last three that I have seen have all been Gems (two were graded MS65 by PCGS while one was graded MS65 by NGC) and all were superb pieces with amazing detail, blazing semi-prooflike and frosty texture and rich green-gold coloration.


The 1821 is a date that does not receive as much attention as other half eagles from this decade but it is a major rarity. There were reportedly 34,641 pieces struck and if this number is accurate than an amazingly high percentage were melted as it is unlikely that more than 12-15 pieces are known. There are actually two die varieties. The more available has the thirteenth star touching the hair while the rarer shows this star away from the hair. There appear to be around four or five 1821 half eagles known in circulated grades (these are all in the AU53 to AU58 range) while the rest are Uncirculated pieces. The finest known is a single MS66 graded by PCGS and also by NGC. All of the 1821 half eagles that I have personally seen are prooflike with a good strike and greenish-gold coloration. There is at least one Proof known (ex: Norweb collection) and the Bass coin in the ANA Museum is a fully prooflike Gem business strike.


The 1822 half eagle is one of the great rarities in all of American numismatics. There are just three examples known to exist. Two are housed in the Smithsonian Institution and are off the market while the third is in the Pogue collection and was obtained for $687,500 back in 1982 when the Eliasberg collection was auctioned by Bowers and Ruddy.

Time for an Editorial: I have always thought that one of the best ways to solve the never-ending cash crunch at the Smithsonian in relation to the National Numismatic Collection would be to sell one of the 1822 half eagles in the collection. Here’s a coin that would fetch $5 million or thereabouts in the open market and which would focus tremendous attention on the collection. Does the Smithsonian really need two examples of this coin?


The 1823 generally gets lumped in the “semi-available” category of Fat Head half eagles along with the 1814/3, 1818 and 1820 but it is a date that I see less often. The mintage figure was reported to be 14,485 coins but I believe that this is a bit low and the actual number might be more like 17,500-20,000. There are probably in the area of 75-100 known with nearly all of these coins grading at least AU55 to AU58. Uncirculated examples of this date tend to be heavily abraded and generally grade in the MS60 to MS62 range. The 1823 is very rare in MS63 and extremely rare in MS64. NGC has graded one coin in MS65 while PCGS has never graded an example better than MS64. The 1823 is generally weakly struck at the left obverse border and on the curls around the face of Liberty; the reverse is bolder with sharp denticles and good detail on the feathers. The luster is very frosty in texture while the original color tends to be a deep green-gold. Many examples have been dipped.

There is just a single variety known and it shows the Large Letters reverse first used in 1820.


The 1824 is the third most available Fat Head half eagle from this decade but it is a very rare coin in all grades. The original mintage figure is listed at 17,340 but I believe the actual number is somewhat lower than this. I believe that there are around 30-40 pieces known. As with most of the half eagles from this era, the 1824 saw virtually no circulation and there are not more than a small handful of pieces that grade below MS60. Most of the Uncirculated coins are in the MS60 to MS62 range and pieces that grade MS63 are quite rare. The combined PCGS/NGC population of twenty-two coins graded in MS64 is definitely inaccurate and this reflects a few coins that have been submitted multiple times in an attempt to secure a higher grade. There are one or two Gem examples known; both PCGS and NGC have graded an example in MS65 but these may be the same coin.

The 1824 is generally a well struck issue although some show weakness at the obverse border from 9:00 to 12:00. The luster is a bit less frosty than that seen on the 1823 and examples that have not been dipped are often a medium to deep green-gold. Only one die variety is known and it employs the Large Letters reverse first used in 1820.

In Part Two of this article, which will be added to www.raregoldcoins.com in November 2006, we will discuss the 1825-1834 half eagles and offer a number of collecting and grading tips for the series.