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All Posts Tagged With: "Half Eagle"

Coin Profile: Roman Finish 1909 Half Eagle Gold Coin

The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or “semibrilliant” proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast–half eagles or otherwise.

The 1908 gold coins of the new Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens designs were launched with a new “matte” proof format that was all the rage in European mints of the era. The Robert Loewinger reference, Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, offers this:

“The [matte proof] process originally started in Belgium and was popularized in the Paris Mint. The finish was applied after striking and was made by sandblasting the coins at different forces and speeds with different sizes of grains of sand. Also pickling the coins in a weak acid was another technique that was used on these coins after striking.”

We are unsure how widespread the “pickling” was, but the sandblasting was a well-known, widespread Mint technique that produced a granular (sometimes fine, sometimes coarser), usually dark, subdued finish to the product, a function of the lack of normally reflective surfaces. The matte proof coins of 1908 are usually dark, brownish-gold to olive-brown, and they were extremely unpopular with collectors accustomed to a more brilliant finish.

The Mint in 1909 reverted to a lighter Roman or satin finish for proof gold. The updated Akers Handbook offers these thoughts:

“The proof 1909 introduced the Roman Gold proofing method in the Indian Half Eagle series, although at least one specimen was prepared using the dark matte finish of 1908. Despite having brighter, flashier surfaces than the proof 1908, the proof 1909 still failed to gain wide acceptance among the contemporary public The Mint melted many examples at year’s end. Interestingly, even though most survivors present as overall smooth, the issue has the lowest average grade in the entire proof Indian Half Eagle series.”

A  PR67 piece is being offering in the current 2010 October Stamford Coinfest Signature US Coin Auction #1145, and is one of the nicest survivors of the proof 1909 half eagle mintage, recorded as 78 pieces. It is one of six so graded at NGC, with but two coins finer.

US Coin Profile: The 1878-CC Gold Half Eagle

By Doug Winter –

Having just acquired one of the two or three finest known examples of this date (a PCGS AU58 that is illustrated below) I thought it would be interesting to share some information about one of my favorite half eagles from this mint.

The 1878-CC is among the rarest Carson City half eagles, both in terms of overall and high grade rarity. It is not nearly as well known as the 1870-CC and it doesn’t have the cult following that the rare and undervalued 1873-CC has. That said, it is still a coin that is very well respected by specialists.

A total of 9,054 were struck. When I wrote the second edition of my book “Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint” back in 2001, I estimated that there were just 60-70 known in all grades. A decade later this estimate seems a bit on the low side and I’d probably revise the total number known up to the area of 75-100.

As of May 2010, PCGS has graded a total of 64 examples in all grades with none in Uncirculated and a total of twenty in About Uncirculated including five each in AU55 and AU58. NGC has a total of 48 in all grades with one in Uncirculated (more on this in a second) and nineteen in AU including five each in AU55 and AU58. My previous estimate of just three to five known in About Uncirculated now seems very low but I believe that the PCGS and NGC populations for AU are significantly inflated by resubmissions. My best guess is that there are around ten or so properly graded AU’s known today.

A few years ago, an example graded MS63PL appeared on the NGC population report. I have never seen this coin and am assuming it is a data entry error. If it does actually exist, it is one of the most significant Carson City half eagles in existence and it is a coin that I would really like to view in person.

The finest 1878-CC Carson City half eagles that I have seen are a small number (around three or four) that grade AU58 by today’s standards. The all-time auction record for this date is Stack’s 5/08: 4235, graded AU58 by PCGS, that brought $63,250. (more…)

The 1859-S Half Eagle

By Doug Winter –

The date run of half eagles produced at the San Francisco mint from 1858 through 1864 includes some of the rarest and most overlooked gold issues ever manufactured at any of the various branch mints. These were issues that had limited production runs and which were eagerly absorbed into commerce by the booming local and regional economies.

1859-S_5_102709_dwI recently had the good fortune of handling one of just two known 1859-S half eagles in Uncirculated (an NGC MS61) and now that I am no longer actively marketing the coin, I thought it would be interesting to take a more in-depth look at this issue and what made it such a special coin.

There were 13,220 1859-S half eagles originally struck. In the October 2008 web article that I wrote entitled “The Ten Rarest Liberty Head Half Eagles,” I ranked the 1859-S as the ninth rarest issue overall of the entire design type and called it the third rarest half eagle from this mint, trailing only the exceedingly rare 1854-S and the 1864-S.

I went on to state that there are only 50 or so known examples of the 1859-S half eagle. I believe that this is a fairly accurate number and I can further state that the survival breakdown by grade is as follows:

Uncirculated: 2
About Uncirculated: 6-8
Extremely Fine: 11-14
Very Fine (and below): 25-30

The PCGS and NGC population figures would have you believe that AU’s are more available than I suggested above. I believe these numbers are inflated on account of resubmissions and I think some of the coins in AU50 and AU53 holders are optimistically graded. In my experience, a real AU 1859-S half eagle is very rare and I have seen many examples that were heavily worn; even down to the point of Very Good to Fine detail.

The two known Uncirculated 1859-S half eagles are an interesting story and I’d like to discuss them in greater detail.

Unusual Items: Lowest Graded Half Eagle Gold Coin to be Sold by Heritage

1857-S_5_pcgs_poor1_100509The mantra in almost all areas of collecting is Quality, Quality, Quality! High end coins are always in demand, regardless of the series. Dealers and well heeled collectors often go toe to toe at auctions chasing up prices for the finest graded, finest Known and condition census examples of both great rarities and classic coins.

However there is also another group of collectors out there. They search dealer boxes and online auction sites just as diligently, but usually little attention is paid to their acquisitions. However they are a growing group of “less is more” collectors, all looking for the lowest graded examples of coins they can find; The Low-ball registry set collector. The collectors who try to assemble the Lowest average grade sets, where PO-01 equals MS68-70.

In some respects, their search is harder than one might think. How many PCGS Fine graded Saints have you seen lately?

This month, at Heritage’s Dallas Sale on October 24th, these Low-ball collectors will get a chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to bid on the 1887-S Half Eagle in PCGS P-1.

It’s not only the single lowest-graded example of the date either major grading service has seen (PCGS Population (1/1535). NGC Census: (0/2464)), but it’s also the single lowest graded example of any coin in the entire Half Eagle series.

Interested in bidding on this item?, Click Here