Coin Specifications

Category: Capped Bust $5 (1807-1834)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 635
Catalog: KM-43
Obverse Designer: John Reich
Reverse Designer: John Reich
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9160
Weight: 8.7500g
AGW: 0.2577oz
Melt Value: $309.11 (10/30/2014)
Diameter: 25mm
Edge: Reeded
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1815 $5 MS obverse 1815 $5 MS reverse


Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions (HA.com)
  
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Description & Analysis

During much of the 19th century, the 1815 half eagle was believed to be the rarest coin in the U.S. federal coinage series. Unlike many of the old-tenor gold issues, the 1815 half eagle does not owe its rarity to the massive gold melts of the 1820s and '30s. With a minuscule mintage of just 635 pieces, the 1815 was rare from its date of issue. One set of dies was sufficient to coin the entire mintage, which was delivered on November 3, 1815. The depositors of gold bullion from which the coins were produced were Thomas Parker, Charles Kalkman, and the Bank of Pennsylvania. The design for this issue was engraved by John Reich, and his secret signature can be seen in a notched point on star 13. Exactly when the 1815 issue came to the attention of the numismatic community is unknown, but it was squarely in the spotlight by 1865. In his Sixth Semi-Annual Sale, W. Elliot Woodward offered the discovery specimen of the 1798 Small Eagle half eagle and, seeking to impress potential bidders, he compared its rarity to the 1815. George Seavey exhibited his 'complete' collection of gold coins to the Boston Numismatic Society in 1869, including a specimen of this date, and the American Journal of Numismatics declared the piece to be unique. In these early times, the issue even outshone the 1822 half eagle, of which only three are known. The first auction appearance of this issue was in the Parmelee/Seavey Sale (Strobridge, 6/1873). Parmelee had purchased the Seavey Collection intact, a tactic he often employed, and was using this sale to dispose of his duplicates. Surprisingly, Seavey had two 1815 half eagles in his collection by that time. Unfortunately, the coin was withdrawn from the auction.

By the time of the Bispham Sale (S.H. & H. Chapman, 2/1880), there were four specimens of the date known to the catalogers. The Chapmans listed the coin in the Swedish Mint Museum (discovered when Joseph Mickley visited Europe in the 1870s), the example in the Parmelee Collection (Ex: Seavey), the specimen being offered in the Bispham Sale (a Seavey duplicate), and a fourth example (from Edward Cogan's sale of the Cohen Collection). The number of known specimens gradually increased over the years, but numismatists could only confirm six or seven specimens as late as 1940. Then, the population of 1815 half eagles seemed to explode. In the 1940s and '50s, a flurry of appearances occurred, leaving the pedigree trails hopelessly tangled. Apparently new specimens came on the market at the same time the known examples were being sold and resold. No researcher has successfully established a complete census of known examples since this flood of new appearances, despite the best efforts of Walter Breen, Carl Carlson, and others. Today, experts believe approximately one dozen examples are extant.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 8/29/2014

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1815 $5 MS
  GVGFVF404550535558626465
Base $ - - - - 150000 150000 225000 - 310000 365000 475000 725000 1650000
$ - - - - - - - -
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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 4
Low Grade: 50
Average Grade: 60
High Grade: 64


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Auction Prices Realized

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Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
1/7/2009 NGC MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2009 January Orlando, FL FUN Auction #1121, 1121/Lot# 4062 $460,000.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1815 $5 MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base642968517293775687681022611342122591247112608128081293713043134461391414347150061830420613235282724632039
65696998744780939254105981164712329125161267412851129721317713602140581456616105190732158424767288430
000000116471232912516126741285112972131771360214058145661610519073215842476700
000000119531240012562127411289413007133111375814202147861720419843225562600600
1815 $5 MS Prooflike
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base667471087562803890761057111714126531287113011132161334813456138691434714790154651883421192241672795732841
68187259772083849574109521202712725129171307913260133841359314028144941501516588196202218325430295850
000000120271272512917130791326013384135931402814494150151658819620221832543000
000000123401279812964131471330413420137311418714642152401771120406231752669300
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