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.
The 1911-D quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle are all key issues in their respective series. In the case of the half eagle, high-grade 1911-D fives only trail the 1912-S, 1913-S, and 1914-S. The Denver Mint appears to have made an effort to place both the five and ten dollar gold pieces into circulation in 1911. A large number of each are known today in circulated grades, primarily XF and AU. Lower-end Uncirculated half eagles can be located with little difficulty, but it is obvious that precious few were saved in the better grades of Mint State. Even among those that were saved, 1911-D fives are often unattractive coins. The Akers update to his 20th Century Gold reference states:
'As one of the rarest Indian Half Eagles in high grades, the 1911-D is a very challenging issue to locate with overall smooth surfaces. Scattered abrasions are the norm, and they are sometimes excessive. ... The eye appeal is average at best, below-average luster and scattered abrasions canceling out a sharp strike and good color.'
The award-winning 2010 reference Indian Gold Coins by Mike Fuljenz takes the issue of quality a step further:
'The luster is among the worst found on any Indian Head Half Eagle. As a result of the way the dies were prepared, it is typically very grainy in appearance and lacks the vibrancy seen on the earlier Denver Half Eagles.'
Another factor that enters into the general unavailability of this issue is that there were simply few date and mintmark collectors of five dollar gold pieces in 1911. A five dollar gold piece represented a significant amount of value for the collector of a century ago. Of course, ten dollar gold pieces represented an even greater store of value, and the low-mintage 1911-D ten is a key to that series. The twenty dollar gold pieces represented so much value to the average collector that they were generally only used by banks as backing for currency and as payment for overseas obligations. But that was not the case for the five dollar gold piece in 1911. Few were shipped overseas, and its value was not significant enough to be used as a store of value for banks. With no known hoards, the number of Uncirculated examples known today of the 1911-D five is the same number that had been set aside by collectors prior to the Gold Recall Order of 1933. Only one pair of dies was used to produce this issue, and almost all examples show a strong strike and sharply defined D mintmark.
The relation between condition and value for Uncirculated 1911-D fives underscores not only the general unavailability of this issue in the better grades of Mint State, but it is also a comment on the increase in the collector base of this short-lived series over the past century
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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