Certifying a Family Heirloom: 1805 $5

Posted on 3/16/2010

Family heirloom turns out to be an 1805 Half Eagle.

Although not a coin collector, Robert McGough owned a coin that was meaningful to him. He had owned it all of his life. As an eight-month-old baby he visited his great-grandmother who was a practical nurse in the employ of an older lady, well into her 90s. This woman was enamored with the smile and disposition of her caretaker's great-grandchild. At the end of the visit, she gave to the baby a gold coin that she had been given as a young girl nearly 90 years before.

McGough's grandmother and the woman who gifted him the coin both passed away when he was quite young. The coin sat tucked away for many years, and was seldom looked at. On those occasions when it was taken out, he remembers being told, "You got that as a baby," and it was something that he owned his entire life.

Now 66, McGough sought to investigate the coin, as he was curious about its value. The coin was an 1805 five dollar gold piece, and it was not obvious how to determine its value. Just 33,183 were made, and there is a wide range in value depending on condition. But McGough’s primary concern was finding someone he could trust, because he didn't know any dealers near him in Tennessee and didn't want to be misled about the value of the coin. Some Internet searching led him to dealer John Albanese, and a few phone conversations made him comfortable with him and the procedures for shipping the coin to Albanese with proper insurance.

After reviewing the coin, Albanese recommended having it certified so that it could realize its full market value. It was submitted to NGC, where it graded MS 63, putting it in the upper echelons of known examples. McGough could not have been a better steward for it. The coin is an attractive tan gold color and has a perfect original skin. It’s just some light abrasion and a few wispy lines that keep it from higher grade, and it is simply a wonderful choice uncirculated example.

While nothing has been decided, McGough comments that, "Getting the coin certified was a step toward selling the coin. It's been a very good experience to get this accurate information."

click image to enlarge

More in this issue...