It's always nice when old friends come home and this wonderfully crusty 1845-O half eagle is a coin that I first offered for sale about two years ago. I re-acquired it at the Long Beach show and, if anything, I like it even more than I did then. The 1845-O half eagle remains a very rare issue in Uncirculated with an estimated eight to ten known. The NGC population for MS61's is inflated and at least one or two of the pieces I have seen in said holders have been marginal at best. This example has lovely deep green-gold and russet colors, in slightly different configurations, on the obverse and reverse. The strike is sharp and the surfaces are free of significant marks. For the sake of identification, there is a patch of dirt near the top of star seven on the obverse and a few natural copper spots on the reverse. Since 1995, only five MS61 examples of this date have appeared at auction. The last sale is Heritage 6/11: 4631 (graded by NGC) that realized $10,350; in March 2010, Heritage sold a PCGS graded coin for $12,650. An impressive coin for an advanced collection of New Orleans half eagles.
Even though the population figures have increased over the years, the 1854-O quarter eagle is still a scarce and undervalued issue in Uncirculated. Of the few dozen accounted for in this range, most grade MS60 to MS61 and few show the rich luster and natural green-gold hues that this piece possesses. A few scuffs can be seen in the fields and the strike is slightly weak at the centers. In the last five years, only seven examples graded MS61 have appeared at auction.
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.
This totally "new" example is very well struck with nice frosty luster and pleasing natural medium to deep greenish-gold color which is "right" for this date. A few ticks in the fields limit the grade but this piece is choice and fresh. The 1844 half eagle is very common in all circulated grades but it is relatively hard to locate in properly graded MS60 to MS61, scarce in MS62 and rare in full MS63 and better. I still believe that No Motto Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840's are a sort of Final Frontier of American gold coins and they offer the collector a tremendous amount of value.
CAC has approved just one example of this date in this grade with two finer.
While very common in all circulated grades, the 1852 double eagle is very scarce in Uncirculated and is almost never seen above the MS61 to MS62 level. So far in 2012, there have been exactly two MS61 examples that have sold at auction: a PCGS/CAC piece that brought $10,925 in Heritage's 4/12 sale and an NGC/CAC MS61 that realized $9,775 in this firm's 3/12 sale. The present example is certainly more "new" than these others with fuller luster and very, very choice surfaces. A few light scuffs in the left obverse field seem to be all that separates this piece from a higher grade and the level of eye appeal is quite high for the grade. There is a big price jump to MS62 for this date and a nice PCGS MS61 like this should appeal to most Type One collectors.
With the 1854-S being priced out of the reach of most collectors, the 1856-S is, for all intents and purposes, the earliest date quarter eagle that is available from this mint. The 1856-S is common in lower grades and only marginally scarce in the higher AU range but it is very scarce in Uncirculated and nearly unavailable higher than MS61 to MS62. This well struck example has nice frosty luster and an even, pale green-gold color. There are a few minor scuffs in the fields that are consistent with the grade but no trace of rub can be found on the high spots. My best guess is that there are around ten properly graded Uncirculated 1856-S and the PCGS/NGC populations are severely inflated by resubmissions. An interesting, numismatically significant coin made all the more desirable by its unbeatable pedigree.
Ex Scotsman 10/08: 801 ($4,600), Bowers and Ruddy 10/82: 179 ($550), Eliasberg collection.
This numismatically significant issue is one of only three With Motto half eagles from this mint and it is the final year of issue of this type from New Orleans. The 1894-O is scarce in the lower Uncirculated grades and it is seldom found above MS61. This lustrous example has typically abraded surfaces but nice luster and color with no signs of rub or friction on the high spots. PCGS has graded just seven finer than this and it has been some time since I've handled a significantly finer 1894-O half eagle.
With the exception of the high mintage double eagle, all of the 1876-dated gold coinage from the San Francisco mint was produced in small numbers and is scarce. The 1876-S quarter eagle has a mintage of just 5,000 (exactly the same as the 1876-S eagle) but it is more available in high grades and overall than the rare, underrated half eagle and eagle from this year. This very lustrous example is unquestionably new with very bold luster and good overall detail. The raised bar on the throat of Liberty is diagnostic to the issue; some coppery toning at the central reverse is natural and, in my opinion, attractive. I feel that this coin could grade MS62 if resubmitted but with the price difference between an MS61 and MS62 so minimal, I've decided to leave this option to the new owner. Great value at just a spot over three thousand dollars and a lovely little coin.
When I wrote the first edition of my book on Dahlonega gold coins back in the late 1980's, the 1845-D quarter eagle was virtually unknown in Uncirculated. Since that time, a few previously unrecorded Uncirculated pieces have turned up but this date remains very rare in Mint State with no more than five or six known. This fresh-to-the-market example has unusually good overall detail for the issue with just a touch of weakness seen at the curl above Liberty's ear. The surfaces are very lustrous and show nice russet and lime-gold hues with the reverse being deeper than the obverse. The only two significantly finer 1845-D quarter eagles that I am aware of are the Duke's Creek/Bass coin (graded MS63 by both PCGS and NGC) and Green Pond: 1021 (graded MS62 by PCGS). I think this date is very undervalued in high grades and this is only the second Uncirculated 1845-D that I have handled in close to a decade.