1874-CC Halves are
By Greg Reynolds for CoinLink - February
Seated Half Dollars were minted from 1839 to 1891. Those minted in Carson City,
Nevada (CC) in the year 1874 are very rare, especially in uncirculated
These are in the news as two were just auctioned in Southern
California. Coincidentally, both 1874-CC halves were graded MS-64 by the
Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC). One was auctioned on Feb. 12 by the firm of
Ira and Larry Goldberg at the Beverly Hills Crowne Plaza. The other was sold by
Heritage on Feb. 15, in the official auction of the Long Beach coin, stamp and
|Two 1874-CC Seated Halfs Auctioned in
the same week
All 1874, 1874-S and 1874-CC
half dollars have arrows at either side of the year on the obverse. So, there
is no need to focus on the arrows in a discussion of 1874-CC halves.
is true that 1873 and 1874 dated halves 'with arrows' constitute a separate
type. Those who collect by design type would need only one of six dates for
their type sets. Most type collectors would not, however, acquire an 1874-CC
for a type set, as it is much rarer and much more expensive than an 1873 or
1874 Philadelphia issue. Before 1942, Philadelphia Mint U.S. coins never had
It is very likely that these two are among
the top ten 1874-CC half dollars in existence. Both
may rank in the top six!
There are five categories of
collectors who would be interested in obtaining one of the two 1874-CC halves
that were just auctioned. First, there are those who seek to complete a set of
all Liberty Seated Half Dollars, 1839 to 1891. Second, some people collect a
subset of Liberty Seated halves such as all those 'With Motto' from 1866 to
Third, thousands of coin enthusiasts enjoy owning very attractive
coins from the 19th century. Indeed, these two 1874-CC half dollars may be of
interest to connoisseurs. Fourth, there are many collectors who like to acquire
very rare coins, even if such coins are not used to complete any kind of set.
Fifth, Carson City coins are a very popular specialty. Some seek to
acquire examples of all Carson City coins of one denomination (such as quarters
or half dollars), one series such as Morgans, or one metal (silver or gold).
Carson City Coins can easily be collected by type. They were only
minted from 1870 to 1893. Not that many types fall into this time period. A
type set of only Carson City coins could be fun to build and would be only a
fraction of the cost of collecting the same coins by date.
halves, the NGC and the Professional Coin Grading Service have together graded
maybe seventy or so different coins? There are at least another forty that have
never been submitted to either PCGS or NGC. My guess is that there are fewer
than 135 in existence.
Even if two hundred 1874-CC halves survive, it
would still be a very rare coin. After all, there are probably a few thousand
people who collect Liberty Seated halves by date, and there are many thousands
of people who collect Carson City coins in various ways. There are also
thousands of affluent coin buyers who do not have logical collecting
Both these MS-64 1874-CC halves are impressive. It is very
likely that these two are among the top ten 1874-CC half dollars in existence.
Both may rank in the top six!
The toning on the 74-CC, from the
Goldberg sale, is definitely natural and really neat. This coin probably has
never been dipped nor cleaned. A large percentage of uncirculated 19th century
silver coins have been dipped at one time or another.
About the coin, I
consulted Charles Browne who is widely recognized as a leading expert in
grading with a finely tuned taste for coins with original surfaces and natural
toning. Browne agreed that the toning is natural. He stated, though, that he
prefers lighter-colored coins.
I did not find the coin to be dark. The
obverse (front) had a great blend of military green and brownish-russet. About
the periphery, between the stars and the borders, there are really neat shades
of blue-green and greenish-blue.
Miss Liberty has toned a russet-beige
color with some deeper russet overtones, along with patches or lines of bright
green, especially where her figure meets the inner fields. There are also some
touches of orange and peach colored toning.
There are traces of red
tones on both the obverse and reverse. Natural red toning is rare on silver
coins, though quite common on copper and gold coins.
The reverse exhibits a tasteful
combination of colors on the eagle. These tones are red, orange, beige and
green, and maybe some others that I do not remember. The right inner fields on
the reverse, between the eagle and the motto and 'AMERICA' and below this area,
are toned a pleasant orange-russet hue. In the reverse outer fields, about the
letters and borders, there is shiny deep green toning.
the description of the 1874-CC from the Goldberg sale, the obverse has very few
contact marks and scratches. Indeed, there is a patch of microscopic contact
marks along with a few very short moderate scratches in the obverse inner
field, at the viewer's lower right, Miss Liberty's left. These are amidst brown
and tan toning, and most collectors would not notice them. These imperfections
are commensurate with a MS-64 grade, and may be factors as to why this coin was
not graded MS-65 by NGC.
If graded by itself, the reverse would
certainly merit a MS-65 grade. My note regarding an imperfection above the 'H'
in HALF is illegible. But, my guess is that it was not significant. There are
almost no contact marks or scratches that are noticeable with the naked eye,
and very few that can be seen with a 5-times magnifying glass.
sides, there are traces of underlying mint luster. The strike is sharp,
especially for a branch mint coin of the time period. The strike is the extent
to which detail is 'brought up' or generated when the die forcefully pounds
into the prepared blank. The level of detail is measured against the best of
dies used for the type, or sometimes just for that date. So, if one pair of
dies lacks much of the detail found on others, even the best that such a pair
can do may be properly termed a 'weak strike'!
The describing of parts
and aspects of a coin is hopefully educational and is aimed at contributing to
a literature that better enables collectors to appreciate choice and rare
coins. Even the most thorough of descriptions along with the best photographs,
however, do not come close to providing a total picture. A special coin really
needs to be tilted under a light and closely viewed to be absorbed and
The '74-CC in the Heritage auction has similar toning. Over
time, collectors have stored coins in similar ways. In each era, collectors
often obtained cabinets, envelopes or albums from the same sources. How a coin
tones depends in part upon how it is stored.
Trace elements in the
alloy and about the Mint can contribute to the kinds and colors of toning that
will develop later. A coin that is said to be 90% silver and 10% copper
actually is really a little less than 90% silver and a little less than 10%
copper. Other elements in miniscule quantities may be irrelevant to bullion
(precious metals) issues, but are important in numismatics. Various trace
elements can contribute to toning characteristics and to the color and surface
texture of untoned coins.
It is thus unsurprising that two properly,
though separately, stored coins of the same type and date may often develop
similar toning over time.
This 1874-CC that was in the
Heritage sale is very attractive, though not quite as much as the one from the
Goldberg sale. It also has medium level toning that is neither light nor dark.
Likewise, the toning on this coin is definitely natural. The shades of
brown-russet and beige are very similar to the tones on the other. This 1874-CC
has more of a creamy beige and has only traces of bluish green. It does have
some of the same bright green, also in places where Miss Liberty's figure meets
the fields, blank areas.
When the coin is tilted under a light at
certain angles, it is clear that it has considerable blue toning, especially in
the reverse outer fields. I think I remember some patches of orange-russet
toning. If so, there is nowhere near as much of this color combination as was
seen on the '74-CC in the Goldberg sale. On this one, such colors might have
been more of burnt orange or russet-orange, rather than orange-russet! For
scientific reasons, there are certain colors of toning that tend to appear
There are some black flecks that are barely noticeable with a
naked eye. Through a 5-times glass, I saw black flecks especially in the outer
fields and periphery (near the borders). This is not a technical problem. It
relates only to the aesthetics.
Other than these flecks, there
are not many reasons to refuse this coin a MS-65 grade. On the reverse, there
is a little remainder of a very faint fingerprint between the eagle and the
arrows that the eagle is clutching. This is not unusual for a 19th century
silver coin, and its presence provides further evidence that the surfaces have
not been deliberately modified.
There are very few contact marks on the
obverse, and these are extremely small. The reverse has almost none. The coin
has an average strike. The '74-CC that the Goldbergs auctioned has more detail
in the eagle's feathers and claws. Even so, the strike on this coin is
certainly not weak.
This 1874-CC, from the Heritage sale, is barely
semi-prooflike. Perhaps the one in the Goldberg sale could be labeled as such,
or not? Both coins have very similar surface characteristics, and other
uncirculated 1874-CC halves may also share such characteristics.
short and light scratches near Miss Liberty's foot are minor. This coin could
merit a MS-65 grade. I would not be surprised if it upgrades in the future.
Beyond the coincidence of two auctions, two days apart, each offering
NGC certified, rare 1874-CC half dollars, in MS-64 grade, with very similar
toning and surface characteristics, both realized the exact same price,
$44,850. It is considered a high price by those who believe in both the logic
and fact of the generally estimated retail level of around $40,000, for this
issue in MS-64 grade. I think these coins are undervalued.
are special coins. Further, coins with appealing, natural toning often command
a premium, especially when they have surfaces that are likely to be original or
mostly so. Moreover, 1874-CC halves are so rare in grades above MS-63, it is
very difficult to price them. It is hard to imagine that there are as many as
three others that are superior to these two. For very rare dates, no one really
knows precise market levels for coins that place highly in condition
Of course, not all 1874-CC halves realize more than $40,000.
One in good condition would cost less than $600. An extremely fine example
would be likely to retail for around $4000. It is not easy to guess the price
of a MS-62, maybe $17,000 to $19,000?
There are coins that are not as
rare that sell for a lot more. These two 1874-CC halves each have a great
combination of quality, originality, and rarity, along with the special aura of
the Carson City Mint, plus a high condition ranking. They are under-appreciated
by auction participants, and by the numismatic community in general.
© 2007 Greg Reynolds