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.
Put in its simplest terms, few coins of any denomination have a decade of production and low survival such as seen in the case of half eagles from the 1820s. Very few collectors have attempted or completed such a set. Indeed, only one such set could be completed since there are only three 1822 half eagles known, of which two are impounded in the Smithsonian and only one is in private hands. The story is well-known and has been oft-repeated how meltings took a heavy toll on these coins as their bullion content was actually worth more than their face value. The 1824 gives a graphic demonstration of how severely these meltings affected this series. The recorded mintage of the 1824 five dollar was 17,340 pieces. Today it is believed that fewer than 20 coins exist.
As a way to underscore the rarity of the 1824, Harry Bass owned only one example of this date. Only one variety is known of the 1824 and, like all the gold coins he collected, Harry made a study of the characteristics of the dies used to strike this date. The study of his single coin led him to the conclusion that the cap surface was the same on this date as used on fives from 1821. Even with only one coin in his collection and probably fewer than 20 pieces known today, Bass was able to make this observation. John Dannreuther was also able to interpret the meaning of Bass' findings and expound upon them in the BD reference:
'he (Bass) indicated has the obverse die with the old-style cap used in 1822 and prior (really 1818-1822, as the Reich hub was used 1813-1815 with no coins dated 1816 or 1817). The differences in these head punches are subtle, even direct comparison between them shows little difference between the two, three, or four heads. The main two heads are the 1813-1815 one and the 1818-1829 one. The others reported are likely modifications of the Scot head, the second one used for 1818 through the end of the type in 1829.'
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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