HomeUS Coins1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

As the penultimate year of production in the Philadelphia Mint’s old second facility on Chestnut and Juniper streets, the 1900 $5 gold half eagle is quite a common type. While this issuance of 1,405,500 coins represents a 17.8% drop from the prior year, it was still 56.2% higher than the following year and well above the average mintage for the series.

Due to both the high value of gold and collectors focusing on the coin as the first issuance of the new century, a good number survive to this day in high grade. As a result, examples exist up through MS67. However, these top grades are quite rare, and the combined population shows that roughly 533 examples are known in MS65 or better. That said, it was quite rare to see these coins in general circulation, despite President McKinley signing the Gold Standard Act of 1900 into law on March 14.

American gold coins did circulate overseas, and a total of $15,970,791 worth of U.S. gold was exported in 1900. Adjusted for inflation, this would be about $566,605,639 today. The vast majority of this gold went to France ($11,649,660) and Germany ($4,000,709) in either coin or bullion bar form. This trend of exporting gold to Europe would increase dramatically until the outbreak of World War I, at which point the flow shifted back towards the United States.

How Much Is the 1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle Worth?

Of the 69 circulation finish issuances of Liberty Bust Half Eagles, the 1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle represents the sixth-largest struck by the Philadelphia Mint and the 11th overall. As such, this type is extremely common in almost all grades. Most low-grade examples sell for only a small buyer’s premium over melt of between 5% to 7%, depending on the dealer. Therefore, as the gold melt value of the coin is roughly $433 at the time of original publication, circulated AU or below examples can be purchased fairly easily for between $450 and $475. If a collector has their minds set on a specific piece ranging from AU 53 to 55, they will probably need to pay $475 to $500 in the ballpark. However, you should not pay more than $600 for an example certified at less than Mint State.

Of the total graded population, an estimated 75% are in MS60 or better. This makes sense for such a common type. These low MS grades are generally worth between $650 and $700. In MS63 to 64, however, they can sometimes reach above $900. Two examples graded as MS63 were sold on eBay for just over $1,000 in November 2021. These high prices were due mainly to the fact that both were taken from the Eric P. Newman Collection.

The real value for this type comes in MS66 and above. While MS66s regularly bring in between $3,000 and $7,000 at auction, MS67s can be worth much more. One such piece was sold by Heritage Auctions in their May 2022 Central States auction for nearly $10,250. With a sharp strike and no noticeable bag marks, the coin must truly be considered a Superb Gem. Heritage even stated that, at the time, it was only “the second NGC coin in this condition that we have handled.”

There are no auction records for the top population coin for this issue (MS68), and if an example were to be placed in a well-publicized public auction, it would undoubtedly bring a hammer price of at least $25,000 to $30,000.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS68 (1, 5/2024), NGC MS68 (2, 5/2024), and CACG MS68 (2:0 stickered:graded, 5/2024).

  • NGC MS67 #6329292-015: Heritage Auctions, May 6, 2022, Lot 4809 – $10,215.60; Heritage Auctions, May 5, 2023, Lot 5140 – $11,700. Reholdered. RARCOA green insert. Tick on the bust truncation above first 0. Tick between star 4 and 5. Die crack through stars 5 and 7. Tick on the chin. On the reverse, there is a slight rim hit above first T of STATES and a carbon spot touching the top of F.
  • NGC MS66 #3810027-003: Heritage Auctions, May 6, 2022, Lot 4809 – $10,215.60. Diagonal hit b
  • PCGS MS67 #38999510: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, May 2020, Lot 284 – $14,100; Heritage Auctions, January 22, 2021, Lot 4664 – $11,100. Tiny diagonal hit on the left edge of the neck.
  • PCGS MS67 #38383718: Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2020, Lot 5359 – $11,400. Multiple black carbon specks along the right obverse field. Another carbon fleck near 9 o’clock denticles. Tiny tick above 0. On the reverse, ticks above branch.
  • NGC MS67 CAC #448151-007: Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2011, Lot 5397 – $14,950. Multiple diagonal hits at the back of the bust truncation. Two tiny ticks in the left obverse field in the area between stars 1 and 2. General scruffiness in the right reverse field.
  • PCGS MS67 #06338196: Heritage Auctions, March 3, 2006, Lot 1889 – $13,800. Tiny ticks in left obverse field to the right of the chin. Copper spot next to low curl. Another spot next to star 11. Tiny tick on jaw. On the reverse, there is a copper spot below AM. Another stop near the denticles at 2 o’clock.Tiny ticks below eagle’s right talon.

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Design

Obverse:

Redesigned in 1839, the main differences between the new Liberty Head design by Christian Gobrecht and the Classic Head Half Eagle by William Kneass can be seen on the obverse. Gobrecht retained the 13 six-pointed stars ringing the obverse field, representing the 13 original states. The date (1900) remained at the bottom, and the whole design was ringed by a denticulated edge. However, the Liberty Head’s Lady Liberty was made slightly younger-looking. In this design, Liberty’s hair is styled up in a bun that is kept in place by a thin beaded thread. Her bangs curl to the back, with several locks of hair hanging down her neck. Additionally, Liberty’s tiara was made slightly more pronounced towards the front.

Reverse:

The reverse design was changed in only one place: the denomination. Previously labeled “5 D.”, the denomination was now spelled out as “FIVE D.”. The heraldic eagle, with its customary arrows and olive branches, remained central to the reverse design. The shield decorated with 12 vertical bars and seven horizontal stripes is placed directly in front of the eagles’ chest feathers. The eagle’s wings interrupt the legend, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and almost touch the denticulated border. The denomination at the bottom of the design is separated from the legend by two centering dots.

Edge:

The edge of the 1900 Liberty Head Half Eagle is reeded.

Designer

Born in 1785, Christian Gobrecht began working for the United States Mint in 1823 and became the Mint’s third Chief Engraver in 1840. He served in that position until he died in 1844. Gobrect designed the Flying Eagle cent (1857-1858), the Liberty Seated type, and the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle gold coin (1840-1907). A tinkerer, he also invented a medal-ruling machine, created his own musical instruments, and developed a camera lucida, which projected images onto pieces of paper.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1900
Denomination: Five Dollars (USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 1,405,500
Alloy: 90% gold, 10% copper
Weight: 8.36 g
Diameter: 21.60 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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