Large S mintmark. In the rare date gold realm the date "1857-S" has gained much fame because of the S.S. Central America double eagles of this issue. But the 1857-S half eagle is a considerably scarcer coin and it is extremely rare in Uncirculated with probably no more than seven to nine known. The present example is choice and original and it is clearly not a shipwreck coin. The obverse is satiny with medium green-gold color that shades to orange; the reverse is more frosty with nice orange-gold and reddish hues. There are some obverse marks in the fields that limit the grade and a scratch on the reverse below TATE in STATES. That said, I think this piece is comparable to any of the MS61 examples that I have seen over the years. If you are a collector of undervalued gold, ask yourself this question: would you rather have a nice Uncirculated 1857-S half eagle which is one of fewer than ten known or a so-so Uncirculated double eagle of this date of which thousands exist?
This scarce and underrated issue has fewer than 100 known survivors from an original mintage of just 3,400 pieces. Most 1874 half eagles are in the EF45 to AU55 range and I have personally only seen one that I regard as Uncirculated (a PCGS MS63 that is ex Bass 2: 1194). This semi-prooflike example has the luster and body of an AU55 to AU58 coin but it shows typical abrasions in the fields. Both sides are reddish-orange in color with the reverse border deepest in hue. There are many excellent values in the Liberty Head half eagle series and a coin like this, at under $2,500 for a nice AU example, certainly qualifies as such.