The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
Half eagles, like half dollars, are inextricably linked as the workhorse denominations of early gold and silver coinage. However, gold unlike silver, was not available in the early days of the Republic. This was expounded upon in an article in a December 1985 Coins magazine by Earl Caldwell:
'The half eagle was viewed by the founding fathers as an integral part of the nation's future circulating coinage. When the mint was established April 2, 1792, the legislation contained provisions for three gold coins. ... Because it was one of the first coins authorized, it seems clear that Congress and President Washington felt certain the half eagle would have a place in our coinage.
'This was further shown in the mint's early days. At the time, the mint had no way of supplying metal from which to make coins. Mint officials were forced to shop all over the world to find acceptable supplies of copper for smaller denominations. Great Britain, so recently a deadly foe, became a major force.
'Bad as it might seem, it was even worse when it came to acquiring silver and gold. Silver could be obtained by melting foreign coins, which were abundant in circulation. Gold, however, was a troublesome situation, there were hardly large quantities of gold coins floating through the channels of commerce. ...
'It took almost three years before there was any gold at the mint. A Boston merchant named Moses Brown showed up at the door one day with gold bullion--$2,276.22 in all--for the first recorded sale to the new government.
'Whatever gold may have been on hand was clearly not enough to justify production of gold coins. With the Brown deposit, that situation changed, and the wheels were set in motion for the first U.S. gold coins.'
By 1810, the half eagle was still seldom seen in commerce, but the denomination had gone through several design changes. The Capped Bust Left design was engraved by John Reich in 1807 and ran through 1812. In 1810, four date and denomination variants were struck. Of those, the Large Date/Large 5 is the variety usually encountered for the year.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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