Philadelphia No Motto Half Eagles From the 1840’s: A Date by Date Analysis

The Philadelphia mint began producing the familiar Liberty Head half eagle design in 1839. After a quick modification in 1840, this issue continued without change until 1866 when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse. The branch mint No Motto half eagles from the 1840’s are very popular with collectors. But their Philadelphia counterparts have lagged behind, both in price and level of demand. I would not be surprised to see this change a bit over the coming years given the fact that the Philadelphia issues are much more affordable and a complete “by decade” set from the 1840’s is within the budget of most gold coin collectors.

Here is a date by date analysis of the Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s, to assist new collectors.

1840: Mintage: 137,822. This is one of the more common issues from this decade. There an estimated 400-500+ known and they are easily located in all circulated grades. In Uncirculated, the 1840 is scarce. I believe that there are around fifteen to twenty known with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. There is one Gem. It is originally ex Pittman I: 947 where it brought $41,250 as a raw coin. It last appeared as Heritage 2/06: 1853 where it sold for $43,125. It has been graded MS65 by both PCGS and NGC.

There are two varieties known. The more common has a Narrow Mill (or diameter) while the scarcer has a Broad Mill. The Broad Mill variety seems to be considerably harder to find in higher grades, especially in Uncirculated. The Broad Mill has an extremely distinct appearance and it is much easier to distinguish from the Narrow Mill than on the New Orleans and Dahlonega issues of this year.

1841: Mintage: 15,833. The number of half eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1841 is the fewest of the decade. This is the second scarcest date in this subset but it has an interesting grade distribution. There are an estimated 125-150 known and this issue is generally seen in Extremely Fine or in the MS62 to MS64 range.

There was a hoard of 1841 half eagles that was found a few decades ago. Most are in the MS63 to MS64 range and are characterized by sharp strikes, excellent luster and rich golden coloration. I have personally seen at least four MS64 examples and believe that there are a few more known. In all, probably 10 to 15 exist in Uncirculated. The finest is Bowers and Merena 12/04: 2635, graded MS65 by NGC, which sold for a record-setting $27,600. PCGS has not graded any pieces higher than MS64 and their current listing of eight examples is certainly inflated by resubmissions.

1842: Mintage: 27,432. The 1842 is far and away the scarcest Philadelphia half eagle from this decade and it is an issue that is comparable in rarity to all but a handful of the branch mint half eagles from this era. There are two distinct varieties known: the Small Letters and the Large Letters.

Small Letters: This is the rarer of the two 1842 half eagles and it is by far the hardest coin to find in the Philadelphia half eagle series from the 1840’s. I regard it as one of the most underrated coins in the whole Liberty Head half eagle series. There are probably not more than fifty or so known with most in the VF to EF range. I doubt if more than ten exist in About Uncirculated. In Uncirculated, I am aware of just one piece, the Pittman I: 957 coin (which sold for a relatively cheap $17,600 back in 1997). I believe it appears as both an MS63 and an MS64 in the PCGS Population Report.

Large Letters: This is the more available of the two varieties but it is still a very scarce coin in all grades. There are as many as 75-100 extant with most in the VF to EF range. Properly graded AU examples are quite rare with probably no more than fifteen known. This variety is very rare in AU55 to AU58 and it appears to be unique in Uncirculated. The finest known is ex Milas: 442 and it is currently in a PCGS MS66 (it was once graded MS65 by PCGS). This is one of those “how the heck does that actually exist” coins and I would have to think it would be a six-figure item today if it came onto the market.

1843: Mintage: 611,205. Beginning with this issue, the half eagle mintage figures from Philadelphia increased dramatically and this denomination became a workhorse issue in commerce. The 1843 is actually a bit scarcer than its large mintage figure would suggest. There are at least 750-1000+ in all grades; possibly quite a bit more when one factors in low-quality or damaged pieces. In all circulated grades this date is easily available although choice, original AU58’s are becoming harder to find. In Uncirculated there are an estimated three dozen known. I have never seen a Gem and just two or three that I regard as MS64. The highest graded is an NGC MS65 that sold as Lot 3380 in the Goldberg 9/09 auction for $25,300. The nicest I can recall was the Milas coin.

This issue has a distinctive appearance with most displaying frosty luster which is typically interrupted by extensive surface abrasions. The natural coloration ranges from deep orange-gold to a medium green-gold shade. Most are well struck and well produced.

1844: Mintage: 340,330. This is a scarcer date than the 1843, which makes sense given its smaller mintage. There are at least 500-750+ in all grades but, as with all of these higher mintage issues from the 1840’s, there might be hoards overseas or large numbers of lower grade coins of which I am not aware. The 1844 is relatively available in Uncirculated with around three to four dozen known; mostly in the MS60 to MS62 range. This date is scarce in MS63, very rare in MS64 and exceedingly rare in Gem. By far the best I have seen is Stack’s 5/05: 1692, graded MS65 by PCGS, which brought $50,025. That coin, by the way, is one of the two or three best No Motto half eagles of any date that I am aware.

The 1844 half eagle is a well produced issue that can be found with excellent frosty luster, attractive rich green-gold color and a nice, sharp strike. Some pieces have excessive marks on the surfaces but the patient collector should be able to locate a really nice piece at an affordable price.

1845: Mintage: 417,099. The 1845 is similar in overall rarity to the 1844. There are an estimated 500-750+. This is a more common date in higher grades than the 1844 with as many as four to five dozen extant in Uncirculated. Most grade in the MS60 to MS62 range. This is a rare issue in properly graded MS63 and an extremely rare one in MS64 with perhaps as few as four or five known. I am not aware of any Gem 1845 half eagles. The two best that I can recall seeing are Bass II: 943, graded MS64 by PCGS, which sold for $16,100 in October 1999 and Milas: 458, graded MS64 by NGC, which sold for $17,100 all the way back in October 1995.

This is another issue that is generally seen well made. Higher grade examples can show excellent thick, frosty luster and the natural coloration is often a very handsome medium to deep greenish-gold or canary yellow-gold.

1846: Mintage: 395,942. In my experience, the 1846 is a tougher date than the 1843, 1844 or 1845. It is typically seen in lower grades than these other three issues and it is quite a bit scarcer in higher grades. There are around 500-700+ known. Two major varieties exist.

Large Date: This is by far the more common of the two varieties. It is common in VF and EF grades and only slightly scarce in the lower AU range. It becomes fairly scarce in AU58 and it is rare in Uncirculated. I have never personally seen one better than MS63 and only one or two in this grade. There are a number of MS63 and MS64 examples from the S.S. New York which have seawater surfaces.

Small Date: This is the scarcer of the two varieties. It has only been recognized by PCGS for a few years so the population figures are a bit on the low side. I think it is at least two to three times scarcer than the Large Date in circulated grades and much scarcer in Uncirculated. The highest graded 1846 Small Date is Stack’s 7/08: 2068, graded MS63 by NGC. It is from the S.S. New York and has sweater surfaces. It sold for $18,975.

1847: Mintage: 915,981. The 1847 is the most common Philadelphia No Motto half eagle from the 1840’s by a fairly considerable margin. There are at least 1,500-2,500+ known in all grades and this estimate may actually be quite conservative. It is common in all circulated grades and fairly available in the lowest Uncirculated range with around 150-200 extant in Mint State. This date becomes scarce in MS63 and it is very rare in MS64. The finest known is a remarkable PCGS MS66 that is ex ANR 11/04: 1804 ($92,000), Pittman I: 981 ($110,000). A strong case could be made for calling this the finest No Motto half eagle of any date.

There are a number of interesting varieties known. A few exist with repunching on the date numerals, including one with a sharply repunched 7. There is also a fascinating misplaced date variety with a 7 located in the denticles well below the date. There is also a very interesting variety with the 7 punched in the throat of Liberty.

1848: Mintage: 260,775. The number of half eagles made in 1848 is significantly less than in 1847 and this date is much scarcer. An estimated 500-700+ are known with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. Nice higher end AU coins are somewhat scarce and this date in rare in Uncirculated with two to three dozen known. The two best I am aware of are Bass II: 986 (graded MS64 by PCGS) that brought $24,150 in October 1999 and Milas: 471, graded MS64 by NGC, that sold for $23,100 in October 1999.

The appearance of this date tends to be different than that seen on the 1846 and 1847 half eagles. The surfaces are more striated (mint-made) and the luster is less “pillowy” and a bit more satiny in texture. The natural color is often a rich reddish-gold or orange-gold hue, unlike some of the earlier dates from this decade which are more green-gold in hue.

Collecting U.S. Gold Coins On A Limited Budget

Of course everyone would like to not think twice about buying all sorts of cool, expensive gold coins. But most of us have a coin collecting budget that we have to hold to. Is it possible for the collector of average means to seriously collect US gold? I would contend that even with a reasonably small budget, a collector can have lots of fun in this area of the market and over the course of time put together a pretty neat collection. I’d say that you really need a minimum budget of $1,000-2,000 to buy reasonably interesting pre-1933 gold coins. You can buy coins in the $250-500 range but you are going to have to make compromises in quality or collect very esoteric areas like Period Two California Fractional gold. If you can live with the idea of quality over quantity and buy a bit less frequently, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much damage a thousand-dollar bill can do in the US gold coin market.

So, what can you do with a budget of $1,000-2,000 per coin?

Let’s say you a relative newbie to the coin market and you don’t have a high degree of comfort regarding your knowledge. An area like St. Gaudens double eagles might be a good place to start. You get the comfort of buying an ounce of gold with every purchase and you will own a coin that is incredibly liquid. A quick perusal of the most recent CDN Monthly Summary shows no less than twenty-five Saints that have a current wholesale bid of less than $2,000 per coin. Assuming that prices for these issues stay in this range (and my gut feeling tells me that MS63 Saints will be dropping in price in the near future) this means that a pretty significant collection could be built on a reasonable budget.

Another series that a collector without a huge budget can have a lot of fun with is Type Three gold dollars. I’ve recently sold coins like 1857 and 1858 gold dollars in PCGS MS64 (with CAC stickers!) for not much more than $1,000 and for just a bit less, you can buy many of the popular low-mintage dates from the 1880’s in the same grade. If you purchase coins graded MS63, many are $750 per coin or in some cases less. Yes, gold dollars are small. But you have to like the value of a 125-150 year old American gold coin in Choice Uncirculated (or better) for $750-1,250.

For overall value, it is hard to beat the Liberty Head quarter eagle series. Even though many of the branch mint issues from the 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860’s are rare and fairly expensive, the Philadelphia coins from all decades are mostly affordable. The post-1875 issues are especially reasonable from a price standpoint and it is possible to purchase some legitimately scarce coins for $1,000 or less. I am a very big fan of the 1840’s dates from Philadelphia and many can be bought in AU50 for less than $1,000; despite their obvious scarcity.

I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past year that I think No Motto half eagles and eagles from the Philadelphia mint are a very good value. To give you an idea, I sold a really choice NGC AU58 CAC approved 1852 half eagle this morning for $625. This is a 150+ year old gold coin with a basal value of $300. At $625, how can you go wrong? There are many other Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s and 1850’s that can be found in AU55 and AU58 grades for $1,000 and less. The eagles from this era are more expensive but choice, original AU55 coins are sometimes available for less than $1,000. A collector on a limited budget could put together a very nice date run of No Motto half eagles and eagles without breaking the bank.

Another area that still offers good value is the Liberty Head Type One series. There are, of course, many extremely expensive dates in this series and even the common issues tend to be expensive in higher grades. But nice EF45 to AU55 coins are available from time to time and many can be purchased for $1,500-2,000. As an example, I sold a pleasing 1855-S in PCGS AU50 the other day for $1,700. It’s not a really rare coin but it’s the second year of issue from this mint and it’s a date that jumps up in price appreciably once you hit the MS60 level.

If you don’t have a huge numismatic budget, don’t necessarily rule out pre-1933 gold coins. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of very interesting coins available for less than $1,000 and if you can get your budget up to $2,000 per coin, you have some seriously interesting options to choose from.

If I Collected Coins What Would I Collect?

I often (OK, not “often” but at least “occasionally...”) get asked the question “what kind of coins do you collect?” I don’t currently collect coins because I think that, as a dealer, being a collector is an inherent conflict; I don’t ever want to have an internal debate with myself about whether or not I should sell a coin that I buy. But I do have a pretty good idea about what I would collect if I were actually collecting. When I was younger and not yet a full-time dealer, my first love was Colonial coinage. I specialized in Connecticut coinage and specifically collected 1787 Draped Bust Left coppers. In retrospect, this was pretty ambitious for a ten year old kid. There are something like 350 varieties of 1787 DBL coppers and not only was I collecting them by variety, I was typically doing it without a reference guide as I had memorized many of the important varieties.

Connecticut coppers appealed to me for a number of reasons. First off, they were cheap. My budget was pretty small back in the day and for $25 to $75 per coin, I could buy very presentable examples (the kind of coins that are worth $500 or so each today). Secondly, the age and history of these coins appealed to me. I was always a history buff and the Colonial era was of particular interest to me. Thirdly, I grew up in New York City and there were some friendly, knowledgeable dealers in the area such as Richard Picker, David Sonderman, Bob Vlack and Jim King. The fact that the coins were readily available for trustworthy local sources appealed to me. Finally, I liked the crudeness of the designs and the complexity of the series.

After my Connecticut obsession, I moved onto Liberty Seated quarters. I chose this series for one really glaring reason: the coins seemed hugely undervalued to me. Obviously, I couldn’t afford Gem coins, so I tended to focus on choice, original pieces in the Fine to Extremely Fine range. I never did finish the set (I could never afford the rare Carson City issues from 1870 to 1873) but I was able to buy some pretty awesome coins at what seemed like pretty reasonable prices.

So, using my experiences from the collecting days of yore, how would they apply to the market of today? To answer the “what would I collect” question let me start by deducing what I wouldn’t collect. I know that I would avoid coins made during the 20th century. For whatever reason, 20th century coins have just never really appealed to me (with the exception of Saints but that is a set that I could never afford to collect in the way that I want to). I am pretty sure that I would also avoid collecting Proof coins. I like very low mintage Proofs struck prior to 1880 but, for the most part, I like coins that were made to circulate. In the same vein, I think I would focus on coins that were in lightly circulated grades as opposed to high end Uncirculated coins. I like a Gem coin as much as the next guy but there is something about an evenly worn, dirty EF45 to AU55 coin that really appeals to me. I know I would also focus on an era of history that was appealing to me. I also know that after all these years of focusing on gold coins, I’m going to have a pretty hard time not specializing in some sort of gold coinage.

So, at this point we are looking at business strike gold coins from the 19th century in circulated grades as the parameter of WWDC (What Would Doug Collect). For a variety of reasons, I have always been partial to coins struck prior to the Civil War, especially those produced from 1834 through the mid-to-late 1840’s. I don’t really have any preferences as to coin size, so I wouldn’t naturally be attracted to quarter eagles as opposed to half eagles or eagles. I know you are assuming that I’d select branch mint coins over Philadelphia and this is probably true although I do find the Philadelphia coins from this era to be very interesting and a really good value.

As someone who has long been an advocate of specializing and having a fairly narrow focus for a collection I’m going to actually listen to myself. I would also want to choose a series that doesn’t have any very expensive coins that I know I could never buy. I’d want coins that were scarce to rare but not impossible to find. And I’d want to be in a series where the coins were actually decent looking.

Given all of these parameters, I think that I would be a collector of No Motto New Orleans half eagles and eagles. I would want to collect both denominations and I’d try to have choice, original EF and AU coins that were evenly matched.

But I think I would also have a secondary, “cheap coin” collection as well. There would be points in time when I might not have the money for a good New Orleans gold coin or couldn’t find anything but I still had an itchy trigger finger and wanted to buy something. During these times, I’d focus on Liberty Seated half dollars (both Philadelphia and New Orleans) from the 1839-1852 era in EF and AU grades (with the occasional MS62 or MS63 thrown in for good measure).

To those of you who actually do collect New Orleans half eagles and eagles: don’t worry, I’m not going to suddenly become your competitor. But if these are your series of choice, give yourself a pat on the back and smugly tell yourself that you’ve made a choice that meets with my total approval!

No Motto Philadelphia Half Eagles and Eagles: A New-Found Appreciation

A few months ago, I decided to start focusing more on No Motto half eagles and eagles from the Philadelphia mint than I had in the past. Formerly, I had sort of pooh-poohed these coins as being “boring” but the more I’ve studied these series, the more I think they may be one of the true Final Frontiers of the rare date gold market. As a buyer, one of my major criteria for making a purchase is the fundamental rarity of a coin. By this, I am referring to the availability of a coin in all grades. Virtually all Charlotte and Dahlonega gold has a good degree of fundamental rarity, meaning that a specific issue is hard to locate in any grade, not just in Gem. This isn’t the case with No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles. Or is it?

The more I began to study these two series, the more I realized that many of the issues that I formerly thought were common in circulated grades were just not as available as I presumed. Let’s say that I decided that I was going to promote Philadelphia eagles from the 1840’s in AU grades. If these coins were as available as I had felt, I probably would be able to accumulate fifty or even a hundred coins over the course of a six month period; certainly enough to make the promotion worthwhile.

You can probably guess where this is going. I did make a decision to do this very promotion and after searching for nice, crusty coins in the AU55 to AU58 range I was able to come up with exactly eight pieces. And this is after five months of pretty intensive searching. Given the fact that my per-coin cost basis was in the $1,000 range, I became more and more intrigued. Clearly, my epic promotion wasn’t going to happen. But in the course of planning it, I became smitten by No Motto half eagles and eagles from the Philadelphia mint.

Let me give you a couple of reasons why I think these coins are interesting:

1. There are no true “stoppers.” Virtually every branch mint series has a few issues that are extremely rare and expensive. In the Philadelphia No Motto half eagles from the 1840’s and the 1850’s, there are no impossible coins. In fact, with the exception of a small number of coins (1842 Small Letters half eagle, 1858 eagle) nearly all of the issues can be found in either the very high circulated grades or even in Uncirculated.

2. The per-coin cost basis in these series is far lower than for branch mint issues. If you want to collect Dahlonega half eagles in AU grades, every coin you buy is going to cost at least $3,000-4,000. You can purchase many of the more available Philadelphia half eagles for around $1,000 per coin and many of the eagles are $1,250-1,500 each in very presentable condition.

3. For someone like myself who loves choice, original coins there are a lot more nice Philadelphia half eagles and eagles available than branch mint pieces. Because of the fact that there is a big value spread for the branch mint issues between EF45 and AU55 (or even AU55 and MS61) there is tremendous financial motivation to scrub original coins. Many dealers have made a career out of taking an AU50 Charlotte quarter eagle that they bought for $3,000, processing it, getting the coin into an AU55 or AU58 holder and selling it for $5,000, $6,000 or even more. The financial motivation to destroy a nice, original AU55 Philadelphia half eagle is currently not that great and, ironically, a greater percentage of the coins remain intact.

4. Since very few people currently collect these coins, you have less competition and an easier shot to buy the nice pieces without having to pay nutty money.

So does this blog signal an end to my love affair with branch mint gold issues? Hardly. I still am a strong buyer of all nice Carson City, Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans gold coins (from dollars through double eagles) and will continue to be so as long as I am a professional numismatist. But I’ve become much more appreciative of No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles and you will see more of them appear for sale on my website in the future. Will I write a book on them? Probably not. I will, however, probably write in-depth features in my monthly web articles that discuss these coins on a date-by-date basis.

The 1838 Eagle

One of my absolute favorite United States gold coins is the 1838 eagle. Here are some impressions I’d like to share about this fascinating issue. The ten dollar gold denomination was abolished in 1805, along with the silver dollar denomination. I’ve read in various coin books that the reason for this was “extensive melting by bullion dealers.” I’m a bit skeptical about this as a reason and would personally think that for Eagles, the reason had to do more with a lack of demand and/or available gold bullion.

After a thirty-four year hiatus, the eagle denomination was resurrected in 1838 and the task of designing the new coin fell to Christian Gobrecht. The new design featured a bust of Liberty facing left on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Liberty’s neck on the 1838 eagles is distinctly curved and the back of the neck ends in a curious, abrupt triangle. Another identifying factor is strands of hair over the ear which are swept-back in appearance and which cover much of the ear. The portrait is positioned quite a bit differently than on other Liberty head eagles. On the 1838 (and some of the 1839), the tip of the coronet is placed below the outside of the sixth star while the back of the neck is below the outside of the thirteenth star. On the later issues, the tip of the coronet is placed between the fifth and sixth stars while the back of the neck is located past the inside of the thirteenth star.

In 1838, only 7,200 eagles were struck. I estimate that 50-75 are known today and break these down as follows:

    Very Fine and below................15-25

    Extremely Fine.....................23-31

    About Uncirculated.................10-15


Most examples of this date grade VF30 to EF40 and show clear evidence of considerable circulation. The surfaces are generally very heavily abraded with clusters of marks seen most often in the left obverse field. This issue has better luster than one might expect and higher grade pieces are sometimes quite reflective. Most show enough wear, however, that the luster is considerably impaired. The natural coloration tends to be a medium to deep greenish-gold hue. I have not seen many examples that have original color as most have been dipped or cleaned at one time. The strike tends to be reasonably sharp with good overall detail at the centers; some examples have weakness on the radial lines of the stars.

The 1838 eagle is scarce in all grades and it becomes truly rare in properly graded AU50 or better. Most AU examples are in the low end of this range and a solid AU55 to AU58 is very rare and extremely desirable. I have personally seen only a handful of nice examples in the last few years, the best of which is a PCGS MS63 that sold for $63,250 in the April 2002 Heritage auction.

There are also three Proofs known. One is in the Smithsonian and it grades PR63, one is in a private collection (ex: Cardinal Spellman) and is graded PR65 by PCGS and the final example is also graded PR65 by PCGS and is ex: Pittman. This coin last sold for $550,000 in 1998 and it would sell for considerably more than this if made available.

Pricing for the 1838 eagle is currently very inaccurate. Coin World Trends shows values for this date at $2,900 in EF40, $4,025 in EF-45, $6,250 in AU50 and $11,000 in AU55. If you can purchase a problem-free 1838 eagle in these grades for prices anywhere near these levels, you’ve found yourself an incredible bargain. I’ve noticed that in the last few years, lower and medium grade examples that have been offered for sale at auction have brought levels far, far greater than Trends.

So what is it exactly about this issue that I found so intriguing? I can think of a number of reasons. It is a first-year-of-issue coin and the first Eagle to be struck after the denomination was resurrected after a three-and-a-half decade hiatus. It is a low mintage coin that is scarce in all grades and very rare in higher grades. It is a unique and very different design that was used on this denomination for just two years. And last but not least, it is exceptionally undervalued at current price levels.

The Finest Known 1858 Eagle

One of my all-time favorite United States gold coins is coming up for sale soon. The coin in question: the finest known 1858 Eagle, graded MS64 by PCGS. The venue of sale: the Heritage May 2007 Platinum Night auction at the Central States Convention. The 1858 is among the rarer and more noteworthy issues in the entire Liberty Head eagle series. There were only 2,521 examples produced of which an estimated three to four dozen exist. While both NGC and PCGS show other examples having been graded in Uncirculated, I believe that the 1858 is unique in strict Mint State. The present example has been graded MS64 by both PCGS and NGC and is very choice for the grade.

This coin has a very interesting history. In 1972, it walked into a coin shop in New York. According to the dealer who purchased it, the owner had acquired the coin from the legendary dealer Wayte Raymond sometime in the 1920’s or the 1930’s. It was placed into a specialist collection and was first sold at auction in 1980 where it realized an impressive $115,000.

After bouncing around between a number of dealers, the coin was sold to Warren Miller, a collector from New Jersey who was assembling what, at the time, was the finest collection of Liberty Head eagles ever attempted. It remained in the Miller collection until 1995 when this set was sold by Heritage. Amazingly, the coin did not meet its reserve and it was retained by Warren Miller. It took Miller quite a while to sell this coin, as the market in the 1990’s was not especially good for esoteric high five-figure/low six figure coins; no matter how rare or neat they were.

Eventually, it was purchased by a type collector who was putting together a set of high grade coins designed by Christian Gobrecht. (And hats off to a type/design collector who chooses one of the single greatest Liberty Head eagles in existence as his ten dollar gold representative...that’s my kind of type collector!). He kept it for a decade or so and then made the decision to sell the coin in the auction mentioned above.

So, what is it about this piece that makes it worthy of so much praise? After all, isn’t it “just” an expensive, esoteric coin? In a sense that is true but the market has become far more appreciative of coins like this since the Dog Days of the mid-to-late 1990’s. While few people “need” this coin to complete their date set of 1858 coinage or their Liberty Head eagle set (and don’t snicker at the last comment; more people collect $10 Libs. by date than you think...) lots of people now appreciate one-of-a-kind coins with a real mystique. Just like this 1858 eagle.

Looking at this piece from a more global perspective, here’s what you need to know. It’s the finest known example of a coin that is genuinely scarce in all grades. It’s a No Motto eagle in a very high grade and even the “common dates” of this design type are very rare in MS64. For many years it was the world-record holder for a Liberty Head eagle (business strike) sold at auction and it has a cult following among gold coin specialists. Most importantly, it’s a gorgeous coin for the grade with choice surfaces, lovely original color and luster and incredible eye appeal for the issue. In short, it’s a true trophy coin and a piece which could be a runaway if two or three savvy, big-budget collectors or investors decide they’ve got to have it.

So what’s the 1858 eagle going to sell for this time around? I’d give it a conservative estimate in the $100,000-125,000 range although I think it’s possible it could bring a lot more This is a coin which I will be excited to watch sell in a few weeks when I’m at the Heritage auction in St. Louis.