By Chris Bulfinch – Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
Stack’s Bowers Galleries is excited to offer an 1860 Liberty Head gold half eagle graded MS-63 by PCGS in our Spring 2023 Rarities Night Auction. Because it is often overshadowed by its rarer Southern branch mint siblings, 1860 is regarded by many experts as an underrated Liberty Head gold half eagle. Uncirculated examples are exceedingly scarce, so our offering affords specialists a rare opportunity to own one of the finest-known examples of a scarce date.
The Mint struck just 19,763 half eagles in 1860, the final date in a short run of low-mintage half eagles beginning in 1858. Circulated examples are far more abundant than those in Uncirculated grades; PCGS reports just nine grading events for coins in Mint State, three of which are in MS-63 with a single example finer than the coin we’re offering. NGC, for its part, reports one fewer grading event for 1860 half eagles in the Mint State range, with two in MS-63.
Only a handful of Mint State 1860 half eagles have crossed the block in recent years. We offered an MS-61 example in 2022, the first Mint State coin handled by the firm in decades. Stack’s sold an example graded MS-63 in 1995. The most recent sale recorded on PCGS CoinFacts was an April 2015 sale at which an example graded MS-63 by NGC realized $15,863. Interestingly, our predecessor firm Bowers and Merena’s 1999 sale of an MS-64 (PCGS) example from the Bass Collection holds the highest auction price recorded on CoinFacts at $23,000.
Our cataloger lauds the coin’s exceptional eye appeal:
“Bright, beautiful color on both sides alternates between light golden-rose and warmer orange-gold depending on the lighting. The surfaces are enhanced by full, soft, satiny luster. A touch of softness to the hair curls over Liberty’s brow and the opposing high point near the bottom of the eagle on the reverse notwithstanding, this is an overall boldly struck coin with most features crisp. There are few marks (none that are readily distracting); most useful for provenance tracing is a pair of trivial scuffs in the obverse filed between stars 2 and 3.”