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A Rare HM-2 1838-C $5 Half Eagle With Perfect Reverse

Classic US Gold Coins - A Rare HM-2 1838-C $5 Half Eagle With Perfect Reverse, by Doug Winter

By Doug WinterRareGoldCoins.com ……

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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+ that 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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

HM-2 1838-C Classic Head Half Eagle $5 gold coin PCGS AU55 CAC. Image courtesy PCGS, Doug Winter

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, 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.

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Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

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Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, 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. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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