By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner ……
It is difficult to call an issue as expensive as the 1878-CC half eagle “underpriced” but it is my opinion that this is easily the most underappreciated half eagle from this mint – if not the single most underappreciated gold coin of any denomination made at this facility.
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1878-CC $5.00 PCGS EF40. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics
The 1878-CC is the third-rarest Carson City half eagle in terms of overall rarity (i.e., the total number known), with fewer than 100 known from the original mintage of 9,054. This date shows a condition distribution more akin to the early CC half eagles than the later dates, with survivors likely to show extensive wear. In fact, I’d say that well over 80% of all 1878-CC half eagles grade EF or lower.
In higher grades (AU and finer), the 1878-CC is really rare, with likely less than 10-12 known. There are around three or four properly graded AU55s, and another two or three which grade AU58. I have seen no more than three or four high(er) grade examples that I regard as choice and original, and the 1878-CC is a bona-fide appearance rarity; more on this in a second.
There is a single Uncirculated piece known, an NGC MS63, which supposedly was discovered in Alaska (of all places!) around 20 or so years ago. I have never seen this coin but I consider it to be among the all-time-great gold coins from Carson City.
Despite all this acclaim, the 1878-CC half eagle would make few collectors’ Top Ten lists of the most interesting or the most desirable Carson City gold coins.
I have built more than a dozen high-quality complete sets of Carson City half eagles and each time, I considered the inclusion of a nice 1878-CC to be the crowning achievement of the set, along with the 1873-CC. Both dates are true appearance rarities and this is verified by CAC populations for these two dates.
1878-CC $5.00 PCGS VF25 CAC
CAC has approved 11 1878-CC half eagles, but this number includes six pieces graded VF35 and below. In EF, only one has been stickered (an EF45), while four have been blessed in AU (1 each in AU50, 53, 55, and 58).
So, I’ve made a compelling case for the rarity of this date. Why is it underappreciated?
The 1878-CC is not well-known outside of the specialist community. I’m willing to bet that if I had AU55 examples of the 1870-CC and 1878-CC half eagles in my case at a major show, the former would stop people in their tracks while the latter might be overlooked by most collectors.
Why are most 1878-CC half eagles so ratty while their also-rare counterparts the 1878-CC eagle and double eagle can sometimes be found with good eye appeal? I think the first reason is that the 1878-CC half eagle is never found with the “Euro” look indicative of storage in an overseas bank vault. A small number of 1878-CC eagles and a slightly greater number of 1878-CC double eagles were shipped overseas and have been repatriated. The 1878-CC half eagle saw heavy circulation, and it is the last CC issue of this denomination seen with any frequency in very low grades.
Finally, this is an issue which has been mistreated by collectors and dealers. A significant number have been cleaned or processed over the years, leaving us with very few pieces with natural surfaces.
A word of advice to the CC half eagle specialist: you are going to find very few nice 1878-CCs so if and when you do, be prepared to pounce.
Are you searching for a killer 1878-CC half eagle? Would you like a world-class expert to assist you in building a set of Carson City half eagles? Call Doug Winter at (214) 675-9897 and let’s discuss how I can assist you.
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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 United States 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 exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has 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.