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.
In 1813 the half eagle was the only U.S. gold denomination being produced. Gold eagles had not been made since 1804 (they were resumed in 1838), and quarter eagle production was interrupted from 1808 until 1821. The Capped Head half eagles, produced from 1813 to 1834, were made during a period when widespread melting took place. Most of the coins never circulated, and they frequently went straight from the Mint into the hands of bullion dealers. Some forty thousand pieces of 'recent mintage' were destroyed in a single Paris melt in 1831, according to Walter Breen.
The reason for this mass melting of U.S. gold coinage was simple: the Coinage Act of 1792 had established a 15:1 ratio between silver and gold, but by 1813 the ratio in Europe was 16:1 or more. All circulating U.S. gold coins were now worth more than their face value in silver, as bullion dealers swiftly realized. Fifteen ounces of silver would buy one ounce of gold in the United States, but that same ounce of gold would bring sixteen ounces of silver in Paris or London. The 1813 half eagle is important to collectors for several reasons: First, it is the initial year in the Capped Head series. Second, it is by far the most affordable and obtainable date in the series, a series which few would dispute is the most difficult in all of U.S. numismatics. Of the seventeen major issues (excluding varieties) in this series, only the 1813, 1814/3, 1818, 1820, 1823, and 1826 are offered for sale with any degree of regularity. This means that the 'average' Capped Head half eagle issue is a rarity.
According to Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, writing in The Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933 (2006): 'The Capped Head to Left, Large Diameter type, issued from 1813 to 1829, contains some of the greatest rarities in American numismatics--coins such as the 1815 half eagle, the 1822 (three known), the 1825/4 (two known), and the 1829 Large Date. Most of the dates in this series have low mintages, usually below 50,000 coins. The 1820 half eagle has the highest mintage (263,806 coins), and the 1815 has the lowest (635 coins). Some dates, such as the 1819, have a reasonably high mintage (51,723 coins) but remain extremely rare today.' It is possible, however, that as many as 500 pieces still exist, and perhaps a few more. Many of the known examples have survived in Mint State, including quite a few near-Gems. However, the population drops off dramatically at the Gem level, and any 1813 half eagle in MS65 or better condition is an extreme rarity.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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