By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
The 1838-C is among the most sought-after Classic Head half eagles. It is both a one-year type and a first-year-of-issue. It is not an especially scarce date but it is extremely difficult to find Choice, as evidenced by its low populations at both PCGS and CAC. The current population of 1838-C half eagles graded AU55 or AU58 by PCGS stands at nine, while two have been graded in Uncirculated by this service. CAC has approved just three coins in AU55 to AU58, and a single piece in Uncirculated (an MS63+ which I sold in 2020).
There are two varieties of 1838-C half eagle. These are as follows (note that “HM” refers to the variety in the numbering system devised by Daryl Haynor and John McCloskey):
- HM-1 (Low R-4): Normal 5 in the date. Always seen with an uncracked reverse. By far the more available of the two varieties.
- HM-2 (High R-5); Repunched 5 in the date. Nearly always seen with a heavy diagonal reverse crack which extends rim-to-rim from 1:00 to 7:00.
We know that the reverse die used to strike the HM-2 variety cracked early and cracked dramatically as virtually every known example shows a massive crack. However, a very small number (fewer than five at present count) were struck before the die cracked and there is no evidence of this break.
1838-C $5.00 PCGS AU55 CAC. Image courtesy PCGS
I recently handled a lovely PCGS/CAC AU55 1838-C half eagle of the rarer HM-2 variety, which shows a perfect reverse. This is but the third example of this early die state that I have ever owned and it is among the best. The coin itself is very original (exceptionally uncommon for the issue), with lovely natural color and choice surfaces. What may be the most remarkable thing about this coin, though, is its sharpness of strike. If you examine the photo above, you will notice much sharper detail than normal for this date and even for this variety.
With die varieties of Classic Head gold coinage becoming more popular due to the publication of the Haynor book (available here on CoinWeek Supplies), specialized collectors often try to acquire both varieties of the 1838-C half eagle. Collecting these issues by die state is another thing altogether but most collectors would appreciate the difference between an early die state and a later die state for the 1838-C HM-2 half eagle.
This coin is now in a specialized eastern collection.
For more information on 1838-C half eagles, Classic Head gold coinage and US gold in general, please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected].
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About Doug Winter
Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.
Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought-after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality, and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.
Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues
In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
- Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
- Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
- Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
- The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
- Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
- An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
- The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
- A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
- The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
- Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis
Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.