Southern Half Eagles 1838-1846
Posted on 2/11/2016
This week we resume our study of Southern gold coins by examining the Half Eagles struck from 1838-1846 in Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans. This extremely popular period of gold coins is always in high demand by serious collectors. Southern gold coins are challenging to collect, but generally obtainable. Building sets of these are an interesting endeavor for gold enthusiasts and for those interested in the history of the United States during this time. As usual, I urge collectors to buy the best they can afford, and to focus on originality whenever possible.
Graded NGC: 103 Total, Mint State 4, Finest MS 62 (1)
This date has the lowest mintage of the Classic Head type. In terms of rarity, the 1838-C issue is slightly rarer than the 1838-D, but not quite as rare as the 1834 Crosslet 4. The 1838-C half eagle circulated widely so it is difficult to find examples above Extremely Fine. Consequently, Mint State examples are extremely rare, with only four examples certified by NGC to date. The finest example seen is an MS 63 that sold in 1999 for $86,250 at auction, setting the price record for the date. The Smithsonian has four examples, none finer than AU 58. All 1838-C half eagles were struck from the same reverse, which often features a diagonal die crack running from rim to rim.
Graded NGC: 128 Total, Mint State 11, Finest MS 63 (2)
The 1838-D is the third-rarest issue of the type, but not nearly as rare as the 1838-C. This was the first year of coin production at the Dahlonega Mint, and the coin features a mintmark just above the date. All 20,000+ coins were struck from a single die pair. Most survivors are found in circulated condition, although a fair number of nice About Uncirculated examples exist. Mint State examples are very rare, topped by two certified examples at the MS 63 level by NGC. The Smithsonian has three examples, none better than AU 58.
Graded NGC: 85 Total, Mint State 13, Finest MS 63 (2)
Like the 1839 half eagle, the Charlotte issue half eagle was produced with a slightly different design from the later years of the type. It is also very popular because of the obverse mintmark location. Most of the 1839-C half eagles seen are circulated. There are probably about 30 to 40 coins known at the About Uncirculated level. In Mint State the 1839-C half eagle is rare, but examples do turn up at auction on occasion. Most examples of the issue are well struck in general; however, an irregular striking can sometimes be found on the obverse. The authors have seen coins with striking depressions on the head of Liberty. The finest example of the date has been graded MS 64, one of which sold for $172,500 in September 2008. The coin is deeply prooflike and it has been speculated that the piece may be a presentation striking.
Graded NGC: 111 Total, Mint State 6 Finest MS 62 (3)
The 1839-D half eagle is another very popular issue from the Dahlonega Mint. The mintmark is found on the obverse, making the 1839 type different from the later issues of the Liberty Head half eagle. When found, the average 1839-D half eagle usually grades Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The issue is quite rare in About Uncirculated condition. Less than a dozen coins are known at the Uncirculated level, and none of them are choice. The finest examples seen by the authors include the Duke’s Creek specimen, the Harry W. Bass, Jr. coin, and an attractive Mint State coin in the Smithsonian Collection. In comparison to the later issues from the Dahlonega Mint most of the 1839-D half eagles are well struck.
Graded NGC: 91 Total, Mint State 10, Finest MS 64 (2)
Most of the 1840-C half eagles seen were extensively circulated, with numerous planchet irregularities. This date has a lower survival rate than most of the other issues from the 1839 to 1841 period. An example of the 1840-C half eagle in About Uncirculated must be considered rare. Just a few have been graded at the Mint State level. The finest coin by far is from the collection of John J. Pittman. The coin is the only Choice example known and has been graded by NGC as MS 64. The coin is well struck for the issue and features interesting die breaks on the reverse. The Pittman example last sold at auction in January 2011 for $57,500. The Smithsonian collection contains a Mint State coin, one of the finest examples known of the date. All of the 1840-C half eagles are of the broad-mill variety.
Graded NGC: 72 Total, Mint State 14, Finest MS 63 (1)
As is the case with most of the early-issue Liberty Head half eagles, the 1840-D is most often found in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine grade range. About Uncirculated coins can be found, but they are quite rare. Mint State coins do exist, but there are just a few legitimate Uncirculated coins known. The Smithsonian contains three circulated examples, all in various states of About Uncirculated. Some of the finest known coins are from the Duke’s Creek Collection (MS 62) and the Ed Milas Collection of No Motto half eagles. A single coin has been graded MS 63 and last sold at auction in 2004 for $35,650. All of the 1840-D half eagles the authors have seen were the narrow-mill variety.
Graded NGC: 150 Total, Mint State 17, Finest MS 65 (1)
As can be seen from the population data, the known 1840-O half eagles are most heavily weighted toward the grades of Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated. There are quite a few very low-grade examples known, but they usually go ungraded and never enter the auction arena. The 1840-O half eagle is known with broad and narrow mills. The broad mill variety is the much rarer of the two. All of the known high-grade coins are the narrow mill variety. The 1840-O half eagle is very rare in Mint State. There are probably fewer than 20 coins that are unquestionably Uncirculated. The Smithsonian features one of the best-known examples. The finest example by far is the coin from the collection of John J. Pittman, which was sold as choice Uncirculated in 1998 for $41,250. The coin has been graded by NGC as MS 65. Pittman purchased the coin in a large lot from the sale of the Farouk Collection in 1954.
Graded NGC: 87 Total, Mint State 7, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1841-C half eagle is seen more frequently than most of the other early-date Charlotte-minted half eagles. Most of the coins offered for sale are in the grade range of Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated. The Smithsonian has two examples of the date, both high-end About Uncirculated coins. Mint State examples of the 1841-C half eagle are rare, but are seen on occasion. There are probably about a dozen coins that are truly Mint State. One of the finest known coins of the date is the wonderful John J. Pittman example, which has been graded MS 64 by NGC. It was sold in 1998 for $42,350 and again in 2004 for just $34,500. Pittman purchased the coin in a large lot from the sale of the Farouk Collection in 1954. The Bareford Collection 1841-C half eagle is reportedly very choice as well.
Graded NGC: 100 Total, Mint State 22, Finest MS 65 (2)
The 1841-D half eagle is a moderately scarce coin in the lower states of preservation. Most pieces found for sale are in Very Fine or Extremely Fine condition. Finding a problem-free example even at that level can be difficult. About Uncirculated coins of the date are scarce, but they do show up at auction on occasion. There are about two dozen coins known that can qualify as Mint State. The coin most popularly considered the finest known of the date is the famed NGC MS 65 Duke’s Creek Collection example. The coin last sold for $88,000 in 1995 in the auction of the Ed Milas No Motto Half Eagle Collection. The date is sometimes seen with rather substantial obverse die cracks.
Mintage:(mint record states 8,350)
It is now known that for the 1841-O half eagle, most, if not all, of the 8,350 coins minted were actually dated 1840. There are no 1841-O half eagles currently known to exist.
1842-C, Small Date
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 27,432
Graded NGC: 24 Total, Mint State 5, Finest MS 63 (1)
The 1842-C Small Date half eagle is one of the rarest coins from the Charlotte Mint. The 1849-C, Open Wreath gold dollar is the only coin with fewer specimens known. The vast majority of the 1842-C half eagles seen are well worn and, in many cases, damaged. Pleasing examples in any grade are certainly worth a premium. The date is very rare in the grades of Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated. Mint State examples are exceedingly rare, with just a few known at that level. The Smithsonian example is Mint State and one of the finest seen. It is generally thought that the famed Elrod coin is the finest known example of the variety. An NGC MS 63 sold at auction in January, 2015 for $111,625.
1842-C Large Date
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 27,432
Graded NGC: 104 Total, Mint State 15, Finest MS 65 (1)
Although the 1842-C Large Date half eagle is not as rare as the Small Date variety of the same year, it is a scarce coin in its own right. Most of the coins found are in grades of Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The 1842-C Large Date can be found in grades of About Uncirculated or better with a little patience. There are several high-grade examples of the date known. The finest coin seen by the author is the Eliasberg example, which has been graded MS 65 by NGC. Four or five other choice pieces have sold at auction in the last few years, the most recent being an NGC MS 64 coin that sold for $33.350 in 2012.
1842-D Small Date, Small Letters
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 59,608
Graded NGC: 160 Total, Mint State 9, Finest MS 63 (1)
The 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters half eagle can be found in the grades of Very Fine or Extremely Fine without too much difficulty. However, finding a coin that is problem-free or not harshly cleaned can be difficult. The issue becomes increasingly rare in the higher states of preservation. There are probably fewer than a dozen examples that would qualify as Mint State. The finest known example of the date is part of the Duke’s Creek Collection. The coin was originally from the Eliasberg Collection and has been graded MS 63 by NGC. The coin has not sold at auction in recent years.
1842-D Large Date, Large Letters
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 59,608
Graded NGC: 25 Total, Mint State 2, Finest MS 61 (2)
The 1842-D Large Date, Large Letters is one of the rarest Dahlonega gold coins in high grade. Most of the coins found of the date are heavily circulated or damaged. The 1842-D, Large Date, Large Letters half eagle also has one of the lowest overall populations of certified examples. There are probably fewer than 100 of the variety known in all grades. Mint State examples of the issue are extremely rare. Only the Duke’s Creek, the Green Pond, and one found on the SS New York have attained the lofty grade of MS 61. The SS New York example sold at auction in January, 2010 for $34,500.
Graded NGC: 49 Total, Mint State 2, Finest MS 61 (1)
The Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Dahlonega half eagles of 1842 are found with both Large Letters and Small Letters. However, the 1842-O half eagle is seen only with Small Date and Small Letters, as it is a very rare issue. Fewer examples of the date have been offered at auction in the last decade than the more highly touted 1842-D Large Date, Large Letters. Most of the 1842-O half eagles found are low grade. Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated coins are very elusive and seldom offered. The finest example known, by far, of the 1842-O is from the Ed Milas Collection of No Motto half eagles. The coin traces its pedigree to the famed Eliasberg Collection. The second-finest example seen by the authors was in the collection of Harry W. Bass, Jr. The 1842-O half eagle is usually found softly struck in the central portions of the obverse and reverse.
Graded NGC: 158 Total, Mint State 16, Finest MS 65 (3)
The 1843-C half eagle is unique among the half eagles of 1843 in that the letters on the reverse are of the same small format as seen on the 1839 to 1842 issues. The vast majority of the 1843-C half eagles seen are in the grade range of Very Fine to Extremely Fine. Problem-free coins are the exception for this heavily circulated issue. This issue becomes increasingly rare in high grade, and there are only about a dozen examples of the date known in Mint State. Three or four coins have been graded MS 64. The finest example seen by the authors is the Milas coin, which sold at auction in 1995. NGC lists three coins as MS 65, but these must include resubmissions.
Graded NGC: 220 Total, Mint State 21, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1843-D half eagle is fairly common for a Dahlonega Mint issue. Most of the coins seen are Very Fine or Extremely Fine at best. Damaged coins are also quite common for the date. About Uncirculated coins are scarce but can be found with a bit of effort. In Mint State, the 1843-D half eagle is very rare; only about a dozen coins have been graded at that level. The finest known example of the date is a part of the Duke’s Creek Collection, which was acquired from the sale of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection. The coin is well struck, with partial prooflike surfaces. The 1843-D half eagle is found with either a large mintmark or a small mintmark. The small mintmark variety is much rarer. The Duke's Creek coin has not been offered in recent years.
1843-O Small Letters
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 101,075
Graded NGC: 72 Total, Mint State 6, Finest MS 65 (1)
In addition to the size of the reverse letters, the mintmark on this variety is also small. The Small Letters variety is considered the rarer of the two 1843-O varieties. Most of the 1843-O half eagles seen with small letters are well worn. High-grade examples are quite rare. As recently as 15 years ago the issue was thought to be unknown in Mint State. In March 2000, a small group of four Mint State examples surfaced—the coins graded MS 61 to MS 62 at the time. One or two of the coins were also prooflike. All four coins also exhibited a small, raised die lump to the left of the four in the date. These coins represented one of the most interesting discoveries in the series in years.
1843-O Large Letters
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 101,075
Graded NGC: 110 Total, Mint State 20, Finest MS 65 (1)
According to the auction records, the 1843-O Large Letters issue is somewhat more common than the 1843-O, Small Letters variety. The issue is usually seen in various grades from Very Fine to Extremely Fine. Many examples are damaged or harshly cleaned. The 1843-O Large Letters half eagle is quite scarce in grades of About Uncirculated or better. A handful of Mint State coins are known, with the finest grading MS 65. One of the best examples of the date the authors have seen was sold by Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions in 1991 to Ed Milas for his set of No Motto half eagles. The issue is sometimes seen with prooflike surfaces. An NGC MS 64 example sold in October 2011 for $29,900.
Graded NGC: 87 Total, Mint State 7, Finest MS 63 (2)
The 1844-C half eagle is moderately scarce in all grades. Due to a fire at the Charlotte Mint on July 27, 1844, half eagles were not produced in 1845. Therefore, the 1844 coins saw extensive circulation. Most of the coins known are well worn, with Very Fine or Extremely Fine being the commonly encountered grades. Mint State coins are very rare, and just a few examples have been graded at that level. The finest example seen by the authors is the MS 63 coin, which sold as part the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection in 1999. Bass purchased it from the Bareford Collection in 1978. An NGC MS 63 sold for $25,850 in November, 2012.
Graded NGC: 196 Total, Mint State 19, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1844-D half eagle is one of the most frequently offered dates seen at auction in the last 15 years. More than 40 examples crossed the auction block during that time. Most of the coins were in grades of Very Fine to About Uncirculated. The 1844-D half eagle is one of the more available issues from the Dahlonega Mint in grades below Uncirculated. However, Mint State examples are very rare. Just a couple of dozen coins have been graded at that level, some just barely making the cut. Choice examples of the date are very rare. The finest known example is the NGC MS 64 Duke’s Creek coin, which sold for $52,250 in the 1997 sale of the John J. Pittman Collection. Most of the high-grade 1844-D half eagles seen are well struck and somewhat prooflike.
Graded NGC: 660 Total, Mint State 62, Finest MS 64 (6)
The 1844-O half eagle has one of the highest mintages of any New Orleans gold coin, second only to the 1847-O eagle. As would be expected, the date can be purchased on several occasions at auction each year. Most of the coins that are offered at auction grade Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated. However, Mint State examples of the 1844-O issue are quite rare. Relatively few coins were saved from this high-mintage issue. Harry W. Bass, Jr., favored the 1844-O as his estate contained 13 examples when it was sold at auction between 1999 and 2000. The October 1999 sale contained the finest known example, which has been graded as MS 65. The coin sold for $34,500, quite a bargain for the finest known example of such an interesting coin. My note on the lot simply state “awesome.”
Graded NGC: 289 Total, Mint State 23, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1845-D half eagle is relatively common in low-grade condition for a coin from the Dahlonega gold that is reasonably priced. Most of the survivors are damaged or heavily cleaned. As can be seen from auction records and population numbers, the 1845-D half eagle is offered quite frequently in grades of Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated. Truly Mint State coins of the issue are quite rare. Just a dozen Uncirculated coins are known. The finest known example of the 1845-D half eagle is the famous Norweb/Bass specimen. Harry W. Bass, Jr. purchased the coin in 1987 for $66,000, an astounding price for the time. It was sold in 1999 at his estate for $57,500, and then it resold as an MS 65 in 2006 for $80,500.
Graded NGC: 139 Total, Mint State 17, Finest MS 63 (2)
Although the mintage for the 1845-O half eagle dropped considerably from the previous year’s production at the New Orleans Mint, circulated examples are relatively common. However, high-grade examples of the date are quite rare. The 1845-O half eagle is very rare in choice Mint State. One of the finest example seen of the date is the Harry W. Bass, Jr. coin, which sold for only $21,850 in 1999. Bass purchased the coin in the 1973 sale of the Gilhousen Collection for $2,000. Another MS 63 example sold in 2008 that had been discovered on the wreck of the SS New York. The coin was hammered for $43,125 in July of that year.
Graded NGC: 71 Total, Mint State 7, Finest MS 65 (1)
The 1846-C half eagle is a very rare issue in any grade. Just a few examples of the date are offered at auction each year. The issue is usually found well worn or damaged—even pleasing Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated coins are quite desirable and difficult to locate. The 1846-C half eagle is a true rarity in Mint State. Just a few examples have been graded Uncirculated, and it is doubtful whether all of them merit true Mint State status. One example has been graded at the Gem level; this is possibly the Eliasberg piece, which is an extremely nice coin. The Milas coin was one of the only other choice examples that the authors have seen.
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