By James McCartney, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers …..
Featured as lot 2136 in our Rarities Night session of the Stack’s Bowers November 2016 Baltimore auction is a glorious Mint State 1808 Capped Bust Left half eagle of the Bass Danreuther-3 die pairing.
Conceived by Assistant Engraver John Reich, the Capped Bust Left design would be employed for only six years on the half eagle, 1807 to 1812 (though it would be used for nearly five times as long on the half dollar). From 1809 until 1820, the half eagle was the only gold denomination struck by the United States Mint and carried the burden of commerce. Along the way, most examples were subjected to heavy wear. Uncirculated survivors of any Capped Bust Left half eagle are truly remarkable, and enthusiasts will certainly appreciate this Mint State 1808 when it crosses the auction block!
Warm sunshine-yellow surfaces are adorned by rich cabernet patina surrounding the peripheral motifs on both sides. The preservation is excellent, with just the slightest notions of friction atop the highest points and not a single abrasion that draw the eye. Satiny luster is seen throughout, remaining most dense at the borders and within the recesses of the devices. The lower left denticles on the obverse are slightly weak, though the balance of that face is sharply rendered. Sharp centrils are exhibited by the stars and evidence of clashing is visible surrounding Liberty’s portrait, with the corresponding indentation apparent around the central motif on the reverse. Traces of planchet adjustment occupy the upper reverse rim where the strike is just slightly less aggressive, though the remaining devices on that side are uniformly well-pronounced.
Overall, the piece offers both strong eye appeal and superlative technical character.
The second issue of Capped Bust Left half eagles, the 1808 was produced using four different die combinations. Two of these are overdates (BD-1 and BD-2), while the normal dates are divided between Normal 5D (BD-3) and Wide 5 D (BD-4) varieties. BD-3 offered here is a bit rarer than BD-4, although both varieties are considered readily obtainable by early half eagle standards. Although with just 100 to 125 examples believed extant (per John W. Dannreuther, 2006), the 1808 BD-3 half eagle is very scarce when viewed in the wider context of numismatics. This coin would be ideal as a type coin or an example of the BD-3 die pair.
This gorgeous 1808 half eagle will be showcased in our official auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo, as part of our Rarities Night session on Thursday, November 3, 2016. To obtain your copy of the catalog or to consign your rarities to a future showcase event, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers Galleries can do for you.