By James McCartney, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers ……
Lot 11394 of our June 2017 Baltimore Auction spotlights a gorgeous MS-62+ (PCGS) CAC 1811 Capped Bust Left half eagle. This example is the BD-1, Tall 5 variety and ranks among the finest-known survivors of that marriage. Earlier offered as part of the Griggs Collection in our October 2015 Rarities Auction, we are delighted to once again offer this stunning piece, now part of the Magnolia Collection, in our upcoming sale.
Introduced in 1795, the half eagle was the first gold coin struck by the United States Mint for circulation. As the second-largest gold denomination produced (until the appearance of the double eagle in 1850), the $5 half eagle represented a more moderate sum of money and was more practical for everyday commerce than the $10 eagle. While smaller bullion deposits limited mintages in the early years of production, striking quantities generally trended upward through the early 19th century.
After 1804, when mintage of the eagle was stopped, the half eagle was the only gold coin issued from 1809 through 1820, as bullion depositors often demanded the largest denomination in return for their precious metal. Many half eagles were damned by gold content that exceeded their stated face value, prompting significant exportation and melting to take advantage of the favorable gold to silver ratios that governed European markets. Reported mintages for gold coins of this era bear little relevance to the true rarity of most issues and varieties.
It is during this era that the offered 1811 half eagle was struck. Displaying Assistant Engraver John Reich’s Capped Bust Left motif, the 1811 issue saw two distinct varieties: one exhibiting a more diminutive 5 in the denomination on the reverse (Small 5), and one with a more lengthy 5 (Tall 5). While slightly scarcer than the Small 5 variety in circulated grades, Tall 5 examples are nearly twice as rare in Mint State, emphasizing the desirability of this offering.
Lustrous yellow surfaces are accented by subtle honey gold in the protected regions. The design elements are nicely pronounced throughout, with sharpness to the central reverse that transcends what is typically encountered on this issue. Liberty’s portrait on the obverse is very appealing, with attractive luster emanating from the intricacies. The fields on both sides are fully undisturbed and silken. The faintest die crack and adjustment marks (both as struck) can be seen at the peripheries. Just beyond the final S in STATES on the reverse and continuing downward through the scroll is evidence of striking through a thread or wire, though this is largely imperceptible without magnification. This lovely example delivers superior aesthetic and technical merit for the assigned grade.
This stunning half eagle is one of many impressive rarities from the Magnolia Collection to cross the block in our June 2017 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. The sale also features the Blue Moon Collection, Part II, the Robert Warner Wolfe Collection and other important properties. The sale is available for viewing and bidding in its entirety at www.StacksBowers.com. Contact us today at 1-800-458-4646 or email [email protected] to secure your copy of the catalog or consign to our upcoming August 2017 ANA Auction in Denver, Colorado.