1798 Large 8, 13 Star Reverse $5.00 PCGS AU58 CAC

BD-4, High Rarity-4. This variety is easily recognized by the reverse cuds at ES in STATES and O in OF. There have actually been a fairly decent number of 1798 half eagles on the market in the last few months and with the exception of a few, I have been largely unimpressed. Most had been dipped at one time and most were liberally abraded. I like this coin because it is very original and because it is clean. I think it compares favorably to other 1798 half eagles that I've seen in MS61 holders and it would not look out of place in such a slab. The color of this coin is exceptional with splendid rich orange-gold that deepens to red at the left obverse and throughout much of the reverse. There is a slight amount of friction on the high spots and a number of adjustment marks (mint-made, of course) on the reverse that form a criss-cross pattern within the shield and the inner parts of the wings. As is typical of this variety, the centers are not as sharp as the borders and I have seen similar adjustment marks on a number of 1798 BD-4 half eagles. The originality and eye appeal of this coin make it very special and this is a wonderful piece of 18th century American gold.

1880-CC $5.00 PCGS AU55 CAC

A very high end coin for the grade with as much "meat" and overall eye appeal as many Carson City half eagles that I have seen in AU58 holders. The Carson City mint produced just five half eagles in the 1880's. The 1880-CC is the second most available but it is very hard to find in properly graded AU55. This example has nice medium green-gold color and it is as well struck as any 1880-CC that I have seen. A hint of orange-gold toning can be seen when the surfaces are tilted towards a light source. A few shallow marks in the left obverse field do not detract. A great looking coin that should appeal to both type collectors and date collectors.

1857-O $5.00 NGC AU53

A beautiful, original coin with deep natural green-gold and russet hues on the obverse and the reverse. This date is rare in all grades and it is extremely hard to find with natural color as most have been dipped and/or processed. This piece is well-detailed, has very clean surfaces and shows far above-average eye appeal for the date and grade. A total of 13,000 were struck of which around 100 or so are known today. Most are seen in the VF-EF grade range and AU 1857-O half eagles are quite rare with two dozen or so accounted for. How hard is it to find an example in AU53? Well, since 1999 there have been just two sold at auction: Heritage 1/06: 5219 (graded NGC AU53 by NGC that sold for $4,485) and Bass II: 1100 (graded AU53 by PCGS that sold for $3,680 all the way back in 1999). If you collect New Orleans half eagles by date, you know the importance of this offering. If you don't but like cool coins priced at under $5,000, this piece should also generate some interest.

1800 $5.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

BD-5, High Rarity-3. Terminal reverse die state with cracks as shown on the BD plate coin. I've always thought that this issue had a highness "coolness factor" due to the fact that it is the first half eagle produced in the 19th century. As a date, the 1800 is underrated in all grades and it becomes really scarce in MS62 and rare in MS63 and above. This coin is exceptional for the date with light green-gold color atop reflective, slightly PL surfaces; the reverse is a bit more frosty in texture. Both sides show just a few marks consistent with the grade and the strike is sharp except for the absolute center of the obverse; a characteristic seen on all examples of this die variety. As I have written before, MS62 is a great value point for early half eagles as coins in this grade are generally nice but priced considerable lower than those in MS63 holders. This 1800 half eagle would make a great type example for the collector searching for a high quality Capped Bust Right half eagle.

1799 Large Reverse Stars $5.00 NGC MS61

Large Reverse Stars. BD-8, Rarity-6. Dannreuther estimates that just 22 to 30 are known. Extremely late die state with extensive reverse cracks that are more developed than those described by Bass. This is both an interesting and very rare early half eagle. The obverse is a light green-gold and shows some roughness in the planchet as made; the reverse is more vibrant and yellow-gold in hue. As mentioned, the obverse fields have some roughness (reminiscent of a 1796 eagle) in the planchet and there is a shallow void as made on the face; the reverse is superb and would grade MS63 or better on its own. The 1799 Large Stars is a rare coin in all grades with probably fewer than 75-85 known. In higher grades, it is very rare and it is a solid R-7 in Uncirculated. Only three auction records exist for MS61's since 1979 and all are NGC coins; the latest is Heritage 9/08: 3577 at a strong $40,250. If you are a serious collector of early U.S. gold, you are aware of the significance of this offering.

1799 Small Reverse Stars $5.00 PCGS MS62 CAC

Small Reverse Stars. BD-2, High Rarity-5. Dannreuther estimates that only 35-435 examples are known of this variety; Bass owned just one which was not as nice as this example. There were a good number of early half eagles available at the ANA show but this was one of my very favorites; at least from the standpoint of its 18th century issuance. This coin is as fresh as you can imagine with vibrant frosty luster and lovely natural yellow-gold color. It is extremely well struck for both the date and variety with great eye appeal. The surfaces show just a few light marks and, interestingly, the obverse is actually choicer than the reverse with the look of an MS63. As a date, the 1799 is scarcer than the 1798 and it is actually less available (albeit less popular) than the higher-priced 1795. The last PCGS MS62 1799 Small Stars half eagle to appear at auction was B+M 11/09: 3667 which sold for $43,700. In my opinion, this example is choicer and much more "crisp" in appearance. Here's an interesting point to consider. A nice PCGS MS62 1795 Small Eagle half eagle is worth around $100,000 in today's market. PCGS has graded twenty two examples in this grade with fifteen better. A 1799 Small Stars has a population of eleven in this grade with ten better but it is priced at less than half the amount of the 1795. Clearly the 1795 should be worth more but twice as much? A great early half eagle.

1860-C $5.00 NGC AU55

This is exactly the sort of coin that, so many times in the past, has been scrubbed and reholdered by the grading services as an AU58. To my eyes, it is far more attractive (and valuable) as a "virgin" 55. As always, this piece must be graded only by the obverse as the reverse is weak and fuzzy due to improper planchet preparation. Both sides show very appealing medium to deep green-gold color and there is ample dirt in the recesses on both sides. A thin mint-made defect in the left obverse field runs from the denticles between stars one and two towards the chin and is diagnostic to the issue. The 1860-C half eagle is genuinely scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and very rare in Uncirculated. This example is perfect for the date collector but would make a nice type coin as well.

1853-D Large D $5.00 PCGS AU50 CAC

I searched long and hard for nice Dahlonega half eagles at the recent ANA show and there were next to none available. This tells me that these coins are currently very popular and the collectors who have been buying them over the years have no intention of selling them anytime soon. The present example is solid for the grade with nice surfaces and pleasing rich green-gold color. There is some dirt caked into the recesses of the stars and through the lettering on much of the reverse. This coin would be perfect for the type collector as it is well-made and very affordable.