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Serial Number 8266.65+/25685656

PCGS Lookup Number 8266

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The No Motto half eagle series contains many rarities; both absolute (i.e, based on the total number known) and by condition. Even the dates which tend to be readily available in circulated grades are scarce to rare in Uncirculated, and the 1856 is a perfect illustration of this.

There are likely over 500 1856 half eagles known but nearly all are in circulated grades. Around two to three dozen are known in Uncirculated, with the great majority in the lower end of this range. Above MS62, the 1856 is scarce and it is rare in properly graded MS63 to MS64. There are two gems known: the present example (which is clearly the finest) and another graded MS65 by PCGS which sold for $40,700 as Lot 2795 in Superior’s 2/91 auction.

This coin is one of the single finest No Motto half eagles of any date which I have seen or sold. It is wonderfully fresh in appearance with lovely rich honey-gold color and undisturbed thick frosty luster. There are a few light copper spots on both sides and these should not be viewed as detracting factors but, instead, as proof that this coin is unmolested and original. I personally believe that it is extremely close to being a full MS66 as there are no real marks visible even below light magnification, and the eye appeal is exceptional.

This coin is unquestionably the finest known 1856 half eagle, but how does it rate within the context of the entire No Motto type? PCGS has graded three No Motto half eagles in MS65+, as well as six in MS66, and one in MS66+. CAC has currently approved six MS65 No Motto half eagles, and three in MS66; their population report does not distinguish plus grade coins. For the date, CAC has approved just this single coin in MS65/65+ with the next highest being a single coin in MS63.

In the Heritage 2015 Central States auction, there was a wonderful date run of high grade No Motto half eagles from the Philadelphia mint which trace their origin from the fabled Ed Milas collection. An 1861 graded MS66 by PCGS and approved by CAC was bid up to $152,750, and the buyer was a very knowledgeable dealer. In my opinion, the 1856 I am offering here is almost as nice as the 1861 and it is a much scarcer date in all grade levels. And at less than half the price of the 1861, this 1856 seems like good value.

This coin is desirable to many classifications of advanced collectors. It is most likely destined to enter a world-class type set but it could just as easily windup in a finest known set of Liberty Head half eagles or in a collection which focuses on one-of-a-kind 19th century Gem gold pieces.

Ex Stack’s 5/95: 500 (Edward Milas collection) where it sold for $46,200; more recently sold as Lot 5343 in the Heritage 2014 CSNS auction where I purchased it for $54,050 as an NGC MS65 with CAC approval.