If I had to pick one single Liberty Head gold coin which would generate a whirlwind of interest if posted on my website, it would likely be the 1864-S half eagle. This is the rarest collectible half eagle from this mint (after the ultra-rare 1854-S), and it is clearly one of the four or five rarest gold coins ever struck at the San Francisco mint. In my estimation, there are around 30 examples known with many in the VF-EF grade range.
This coin is an old friend which I sold to its present owner around 15 years ago. The collector who owns the coin, graded EF45 by NGC, decided he wanted to put together a set of San Francisco half eagles. I told him he should start with the keys first, and for his purposes, the 1864-S was clearly going to be the stopper. I found this lovely example a few months later and it’s been off the market for the better part of two decades.
I don’t have all my old records handy, but if I recall correctly he paid around $10,000 for the coin. Today, it is worth four or five times this amount.
After many years of inactivity, the collector who owns this coin has decided to resume assembling his set of San Francisco half eagles. The beauty of his listening to my advice is that he already owns many of the keys and he doesn’t have to worry about the stopper—the 1864-S—as he owns this beautiful example.
This is one of the few original, uncleaned 1864-S half eagles which exist. This piece has pleasing lemon-gold and rich rose color on the obverse and the reverse, and the surfaces are far less abraded than usual for the issue. The obverse stars show flatness at the centers which is typical for the issue; even the single example known in Uncirculated (an amazing PCGS MS65+) shows this weakness of strike.
For many years, the 1864-S half eagle was an unloved issue with only a small number of collectors who appreciated its grade and absolute rarity. Today, this coin is very popular and I think its level of demand is only going to increase as San Francisco gold coins become more and more avidly collected.
Do you want to put together a set of San Francisco half eagles? I would be happy to assist you, and am available to discuss the process by phone (214-675-9897) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at email@example.com.
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?