Southern Branch Mint Half Eagles 1846-1855
Posted on 2/25/2016
This week we continue our examination of Southern gold coins. The Half Eagles series produced a large number of issues and this installment covers 1846-1855. Most of the half eagles that follow can be found with modest effort in the lower states of preservation. Finding nice and original examples is another story. The series has become very popular in the last few years. If you have not considered collecting these fascinating coins, I urge you to explore more carefully. In my opinion, collecting coins with character and history will be much more rewarding than assembling a set of modern condition rarities.
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 80,294
Graded NGC: 100 Total, 4 Mint State, Finest MS 62 (1)
The 1846-D half eagle is found in two distinct, collectible varieties. The first is the 1846-D Normal Mintmark. The second variety of the 1846-D half eagle features a mintmark that is boldly repunched over a mintmark that is too high and far to the right. Surprisingly, the Normal Mintmark variety is actually the rarer of the two. Nearly every example of the 1846-D half eagle seen is in the grades of just Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The issue is quite rare in About Uncirculated and exceedingly rare in Mint State. Just a few coins have been graded Uncirculated. One of the finest examples of the 1846-D half eagle are the NGC MS 61 in the famous Duke’s Creek Collection and the Harry W. Bass Jr. example. An NGC MS 62 sold in October, 2006 for $23000.
1846-D High 2nd D/D
Mintage: Part of total mintage of 80,294
Graded NGC: 104 Total, 8 Mint State, Finest MS 66 (1)
What the 1846-D, High 2nd D/D half eagle lacks in rarity it makes up for in popularity. This issue is the more common of the two major varieties seen for the year. The repunched mintmark is very dramatic, however, and the variety is much sought after. It is usually found in grades of Very Fine or Extremely Fine. High grade examples are scarce but seen with regularity. The finest example by far is the incredible coin that is a part of the legendary Duke’s Creek Collection. The coin has been graded by NGC as MS 66 and is among the finest coins of any denomination from the Dahlonega Mint. The Duke’s Creek Collection of half eagles was sold intact by Mid-American Rare Galleries and Robert Harwell in a 2004 private-treaty transaction. The Smithsonian lacks an example of the variety. An NGC MS 64 example sold in May 2006 for $28,750.
Graded NGC: 149 Total, 8 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (1)
The 1846-O half eagle must be considered a serious condition rarity. Most of the coins found of the date are only Very Fine or Extremely Fine at best. Although the quality of production is adequate, most of the coins are well worn. The 1846-O half eagle is also underpriced in comparison to the other branch mint issues of the year. The issue is every bit as rare as the 1846-D/D half eagle. There are very few examples of the 1846-O half eagle known in Mint State. The finest example of the date is the Eliasberg/Milas coin, which was graded by NGC as MS 63 and sold at auction in May 1995 for $19,800. Some of the high grade specimens seen are prooflike or partially so.
Graded NGC: 259 Total, 16 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (2)
The mintage for the 1847-C half eagle increases dramatically from the previous year. The mintage of 84,100 coins is the highest for the denomination from the Charlotte Mint. Most of the coins entered circulation, however, and the date is usually found in grades of Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The 1847-C half eagle becomes increasingly difficult to locate in the higher states of preservation. Mint State examples are very rare, and less than a two dozen would legitimately grade Uncirculated. The finest example that has surfaced in recent years was the John J. Pittman MS 65 coin, which sold for $47,150 in 2002. Other choice examples include the Milas and Elrod specimens.
Graded NGC: 155 Total, 15 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (4)
The 1847-D half eagle is moderately rare in all grades. Most of the coins that have survived grade Very Fine or Extremely Fine. Finding a problem-free coin in any grade can be a challenge, as many were harshly cleaned or damaged. About Uncirculated examples of this half eagle cross the auction block a few times each year. There are about two dozen examples of the date known in Mint State. The finest coins graded to date are at the MS 63 level; these include the Green Pond PCGS MS 63, which sold at auction in 2004 for $16,100, and the Duke’s Creek example, which traces its pedigree to the collection of John J. Pittman. An NGC MS 63 also sold at auction in January, 2013 for $15,275. Many of the high-grade 1847-D half eagles are well struck and partially prooflike.
Graded NGC: 46 Total, 2 Mint State, Finest MS 61 (1)
The 1847-O half eagle is a true rarity. Furthermore, the issue is the rarest half eagle from the New Orleans Mint and one of the rarest of the era. Relatively few examples of the date have been certified by the major grading services in all grades. The date is very underappreciated in comparison to the more readily available issues from the Dahlonega and Charlotte Mints. Most of the 1847-O half eagles seen have graded just Very Fine. One of the finest examples of the date was from the Heck Dodson Collection, which was sold by Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions in 1992 for $22,000. The coin was later graded by NGC as AU 58 and was a part of the Ed Milas Collection of No Motto half eagles.
Graded NGC: 186 Total, 7 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1848-C half eagle is a scarce coin in any grade. Most of the 1848-C half eagles offered for sale are only Very Fine or Extremely Fine. The date becomes very rare in grades of About Uncirculated or better. For many years the 1848-C half eagle was thought to be unknown in Mint State. Updated grading standards and the discovery of a few examples have brought the population of Unirculated specimens to less than 10 coins. The two finest examples are from the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection and the Elrod Collection. Both examples have been graded MS 64, but the Bass coin is clearly superior, in my opinion. An NGC MS 64 example sold at auction in 2005 for $44,275.
Graded NGC: 117 Total, 7 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (2)
This is a generally underappreciated issue. Fewer examples for the 1848-D half eagle are seen than many of the other branch mint issues with similar mintages. Many of the coins seen are harshly cleaned or very low grade. The demand for attractive examples of branch mint gold is higher than ever. This is illustrated by the sale of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. estate. His collection contained 15 specimens of the 1848-D half eagle. His coins were dispersed at auction in 1999 and 2000 and have all disappeared off the market into very strong collector hands. Two coins have been graded at the MS 63 level, one of which last sold at auction in 2011 for $20,700. The 1848-D half eagle is also found with the mintmark sharply doubled on some examples. The 1848-D/D is very rare and should command a healthy premium.
Graded NGC: 225 Total, 24 Mint State, Finest MS 66 (1)
The 1849-C half eagle is scarce in all grades, but it is probably the most available Charlotte Mint half eagle from the 1840s. Quite a few examples have crossed the auction block in recent decades. Most of the coins seen were decently struck for the Charlotte Mint and the era. There is at least one high-grade example seen that displays deep, prooflike surfaces, and there are around 25 other 1849-C half eagles reportedly graded. This number includes at least some resubmissions. The finest coin by far is an NGC MS 66, which last sold at auction in 2004 for $70,150. The Harry W. Bass, Jr. MS 64 coin is also very attractive and is probably the second-finest known of the issue. The Smithsonian example is also Mint State and one of the finest known.
Graded NGC: 138 Total, 7 Mint State, Finest MS 65 (1)
Most of the 1849-D half eagles offered for sale fall in the category of Very Fine or Extremely Fine. Many of them are of inferior quality, even for circulated coins. The 1849-D half eagle becomes increasingly rare in high grade. Examples in About Uncirculated are scarce but can be found at auction with some regularity. The date is very rare in Mint State, and very few examples have been graded at that level. The population numbers may be inflated by resubmissions. The finest example by far is the lone gem piece that is a part of the Duke’s Creek Collection. The coin has been graded MS 65 by NGC. The coin resides in a private collection and has not been offered in decades. Most of the 1849-D half eagles are well struck, and some high-grade coins are found with prooflike surfaces.
Graded NGC: 164 Total, 20 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
As the rather high mintage for a branch mint issue of the era would indicate, the 1850-C half eagle is one of the more common Charlotte Mint half eagles. Most of the coins found are low grade, however, and attractive examples above Extremely Fine are very desirable. There have been about 20 examples graded in Mint State by NGC. This probably includes resubmissions, and there are likely fewer than a dozen truly Uncirculated 1850-C half eagles known. There are several pieces that have been graded at the MS 64 level, the latest of which sold at auction in 2004 for $39,100. Many of the high-grade coins seen are prooflike, the best example being the Harry W. Bass, Jr. coin, which sold as part of the Bass estate. The 1850-C half eagle is sometimes seen with a very weak mintmark. These coins sell for a significant discount from the price of a sharply struck piece.
Graded NGC: 120 Total, 4 Mint State, Finest MS 61 (4)
The 1850-D half eagle is a rare issue in any grade. Most of the examples offered for sale are heavily circulated or damaged. The date becomes much more difficult to locate in high grade. At one time the 1850-D issue was considered unknown in Mint State. The major grading services have certified a handful at the Mint State level, but most of these are on the low end of the scale. The Duke’s Creek and Ed Milas examples are probably the finest known of the date, having been certified as MS 61. The 1850-D eagle is often seen with a very weak mintmark, and these coins generally sell for a deep discount. An NGC MS 61 example last sold at auction in August 2009 for $16,100.
Graded NGC: 140 Total, 15 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1841-C half eagle is usually seen only in low grade. The issue saw extensive circulation, and many of the survivors are well worn. High-grade examples are scarce and the date is very rare in Mint State. The 1851-C half eagle is usually well struck, although some are seen with weakness on the central portions of the reverse. One example has been graded at the MS 64 level by NGC. One of the finest examples is the Elrod coin. The Elrod coin has been certified by NGC as MS 64 and sold at auction in January, 2005 for $41,400.
Graded NGC: 115 Total, 8 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1851-D half eagle is actually quite scarce in all grades. The auction data and population numbers reflect a coin that appears less frequently than would be expected. The majority of the examples seen are very low grade. The issue becomes rare in grades above Extremely Fine. There have been very few 1851-D half eagles graded as Mint State, and at one time the date was unknown in that grade. The finest example known of the issue is from the Duke’s Creek Collection and has been graded as MS 64 by NGC. The coin traces its pedigree to the collections of Ed Milas and Henry Norweb. The Smithsonian contains a choice example as well. Most 1851-D half eagles are weakly struck in the central portions of the obverse and reverse. The mintmark is also sometimes seem very weakly impressed, and these coins should sell for a discount.
Graded NGC: 131 Total, 2 Mint State, Finest MS 62 (1)
Half eagles were struck at the New Orleans Mint intermittently during the early 1850s. After a four-year break, just 41,000 half eagles were struck at this popular Southern mint. Most of these coins entered into circulation, and today the 1851-O half eagle is rare in any grade and very rare in Mint State. Just a few coins have been graded Uncirculated, and most of those pieces are marginal at best. The finest example of the date seen was sold in late 2005 for $63,250. The coin was graded as MS 64. The Eliasberg coin is also Mint State and considered one of the finest known. The 1851-O half eagle is a very rare and underrated coin.
Graded NGC: 240 Total, 39 Mint State, Finest MS 65 (1)
As would be expected because of the relatively high mintage for the Charlotte Mint, the 1852-C half eagle is one of the more common dates from this Southern mint. Circulated examples in grades of Very Fine to About Uncirculated are offered rather often. The date at one time was very rare in Uncirculated, particularly at the choice level. In the mid-1980s I purchased a small group of five very choice 1852-C half eagles from Silvertowne Rare Coins. The coins graded MS 63 to MS 64. Most of the high-grade coins in the population reports today are those examples. The numbers have been inflated by resubmissions. Most of these coins have been off the market for years, one of which sold at auction in September 2009 for $22,325. The date is sometimes found weakly struck on the central portions, and high grade examples with seawater surfaces are seen on occasion.
Graded NGC: 265 Total, 22 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (3)
With a large mintage of 91,500, the 1852-D half eagle is not one of the more difficult Dahlonega half eagles to locate. Most of the 1852-D half eagles seen are in the grade range of Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated. The Smithsonian contains three examples, all AU 58. The date is usually found struck in the central portions of the obverse and reverse. The 1852-D issue becomes very rare in Uncirculated. The finest coins are graded MS 63, of which there are four or five examples. The Duke’s Creek NGC MS 63 coin is considered the best-known example by most researchers.
Graded NGC: 167 Total, 23 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (3)
As can be seen from the large number of coins that have been offered at auction during the last 15 years, the 1853-C half eagle is one of the most common coins of its kind from the Charlotte Mint. Most of the coins are Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated in grade. Mint State examples are rare, more so than the fairly large mintage would suggest. Just a few coins have been graded MS 64 by major grading services. The finest seen by the author is the Harry W. Bass, Jr. example, which sold at auction in 1999 for $35,650. Problems for the issue include weak strikes, seawater damage and weak or nonexistent mintmarks.
Graded NGC: 283 Total, 40 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (3)
The increased mintage clearly indicates this to be one of the more common issues of this denomination from the Dahlonega Mint. There are ample examples available in the lower grades. Mint State examples are scarce, but not impossible to locate with some effort. The finest graded by NGC has been at the MS 63 level. The auction record for the date is an MS 64 example that sold in 1995 for $55,000.
Graded NGC: 337 Total, 8 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
The 1854-C half eagle is a very rare coin in any grade. Fewer examples of the date have been offered at auction than many of the higher-price issues of the era. Most of the coins that have appeared in recent years are no better than Extremely Fine. Mint State coins are very rare. Until recent years, just a few examples of the 1854-C half eagle were considered Uncirculated. Updated grading standards have since elevated several more to that level. The finest example currently graded is an MS 64. Interestingly, the coin appeared at auction in 2000 as an NGC MS 63 and sold for $24,150. It was later regraded by NGC and reappeared at auction in 2003 as an MS 64, selling for $37,950. An NGC MS 64 example more recently sold at auction for $27,025 in January, 2014. The 1854-C is found with both strong and weak mintmarks. Sometimes the mintmark is virtually nonexistent, causing these coins to sell for significantly less.
Graded NGC: 218 Total, 49 Mint State, Finest MS 67 (1)
The 1854-D half eagle is one of the most readily available issues from the Dahlonega Mint. A substantial number of coins are offered at auction and private treaty each year. There are more high grade examples of this date known than of any other date from the Dahlonega Mint. The 1854-D half eagle is also found with a very weakly impressed mintmark. On some coins, the mintmark is completely missing, and the coin can be identified as a D-Mint coin only by the unique striking characteristics of Southern gold. The finest example of the 1854-D half eagle is the amazing Duke’s Creek Collection specimen. The coin has been graded by NGC as MS 67, and it is the finest example of any denomination coin from the Dahlonega Mint. Mid-American Rare Coins and Robert Harwell sold the Duke’s Creek Collection of half eagles intact in 2004.
Graded NGC: 175 Total, 10 Mint State, Finest MS 63 (3)
The number of 1854-O half eagles offered at auction in the last 15 years is skewed by the sale of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection. Even though there were 11 examples represented in the three sales of his collection in 1999 and 2000, most of these coins have been sold into strong hands. A check of the population data will confirm that the 1854-O half eagle is actually very scarce in all grades. Most of the examples found are in the lower grade ranges, and high grade pieces are very rare. The Smithsonian example grades Mint State and is in the condition census for the date. Although three coins have been graded as MS 63, the finest seen by the authors is the Harry W. Bass, Jr. example, which sold for $19,550 in 1999.
Graded NGC: 138 Total, 14 Mint State, Finest MS 65 (1)
Most of the 39,788 half eagles produced in Charlotte in 1855 saw extensive circulation. Of the few coins that have survived, many are heavily circulated or damaged. The issue is also known with matte surfaces, caused by seawater immersion. The date is scarce in the grades of Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated, with a particular value added for problem-free examples. The date is decently struck for the era, but most coins exhibit softness in some area or another. Mint State 1855-C half eagles are very rare, and of the few examples that have been graded, most are in the lower ranges of Mint State and have only recently been elevated to that level. The finest example known for the date is the Elrod Collection example. The coin has been graded by NGC as MS 65 and last sold at auction in January 2012 for $63,250.
Graded NGC: 79 Total, 7 Mint State, Finest MS 64 (1)
The mintage for the 1855-D half eagle drops considerably from the previous few years of production at the Dahlonega Mint. The issue is rare in all grades, and most of the surviving examples that have been certified fall into the Extremely Fine grade range. The date is always seen weakly struck, particularly the eagle’s neck feathers and the central portions of the obverse. The date is very rare in About Uncirculated and there are just a few examples with legitimate claims to Mint State. The Smithsonian specimen is fully Uncirculated and among the finest known. Other choice examples include the coins from the Milas Collection and the Duke’s Creek Collection. The 1855-D half eagle is found with a large and medium mintmark. The Medium Mintmark variety is considered the rarer of the two. A Large Mintmark NGC MS 64 sold at auction in July 2005 for $38,813.
Graded NGC: 54 Total, 3 Mint State, Finest MS 61 (2)
The 1855-O half eagle has one of the lowest numbers of offerings at auctions of the era. The low number is even slightly inflated by the four examples that were a part of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection. The 1855-O half eagle is a very rare coin in any grade. High-grade examples are exceedingly rare. The issue is found decently struck, and some examples are seen with prooflike surfaces. The four finest Mint State specimens of the 1855-O include the Smithsonian, Milas, Pittman, and Harry W. Bass, Jr. examples. John J. Pittman purchased his 1855-O half eagle in 1959 for $110; the coin sold in 1997 for $16,500. The coin resold at auction in November 2011 for $15,525.
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