CAC has introduced a number of new shifts in the taste of buyers. A collector who focuses on rare CAC-approved coins is, in effect, an appearance rarity buyer. By this, I mean we now have an entire class of collectors who not only search for truly rare issues but search for them with excellent overall eye appeal. CAC rewards coins on their technical merits and, typically, they approve pieces with original color, minimal detracting marks, and a lack of problems.
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As I have pointed out in other articles, perhaps the single most important factor about CAC approval of third-party-graded U.S. coins is that it creates a standard that I call “appearance rarity”. This refers to coins that are choice enough for their assigned grade to be accepted by CAC. While this standard is certainly not perfect, it does establish a base line through which we can determine how rare specific issues are in terms of their appearance.
I think one series that can be well analyzed for appearance rarity is Dahlonega half eagles. These coins are expensive enough and are so avidly collected that a significant percentage of the total coins known in all grades have been submitted to CAC.
The following chart shows each half eagle from this mint and lists the total number approved by CAC, both in circulated grades and in Uncirculated grades. After this list is generated, I will give some thoughts and analysis to the data.
*varieties exist for each date marked with an asterisk
First, let’s look at these numbers from a macro perspective.
Assuming there is at least a 10% duplication rate with the CAC numbers, I think it’s fair to assume that this service has approved around 450 Dahlonega half eagles in total. I don’t think there is as much duplication with higher grades coins, so let’s assume there are around 40 or so Uncirculated Dahlonega half eagles that have been approved by CAC. This gives us an overall percentage of around 8% of the coins.
I find it pretty amazing that fewer than 10% of all the Uncirculated Dahlonega half eagles that have been sent to CAC have been stickered. Five dates haven’t had a single coin approved in Uncirculated (1842-D LD, 1850-D, 1851-D, 1855-D and 1856-D), and nine dates have had just a single coin stickered. These 14 dates include a number of issues that have had more than 10 coins graded MS60 or finer by the two services combined.
This lack of approval for so many of the coins graded MS60 or finer says a few things, which I have long claimed:
- A majority of the higher-grade half eagles from Dahlonega have been processed and this causes them to be rejected by CAC.
- Gradeflation has impacted this series in a big way, and a number of the coins graded MS60, MS61, and even MS62 are clearly circulated. That is why many of the Dahlonega half eagles in this grade range don’t get approved by CAC.
- Taking a deeper dive into the Uncirculated half eagles from this mint, it is interesting to note that 11 coins graded MS63 have been approved by CAC, and just three coins graded MS64 have been approved (one each from 1844-D, 1853-D, and 1854-D). This leads me to believe that CAC-approved Dahlonega half eagles in very high grades (MS63 and finer) are even rarer than typically stated, and that such coins should sell for extremely strong premiums when they are available.
Now, let’s look at these numbers from a more detailed perspective.
There are specific issues that I find surprising in the list above, both from how few have been graded and how many have been graded.
1849-D $5.00 PCGS MS63+ CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
The dates that have lower CAC numbers than I expected are the 1841-D, the 1849-D, the 1855-D, and the 1857-D. None of these are what I would term “rare” (or even conditionally rare), but these four dates have some of the lowest CAC approval numbers of any dates in the series. They are definitely what I consider appearance rarities.
The two rarest dates from an overall perspective are the 1842-D Large Date and the 1861-D–which is my exact perspective after years of specializing in Dahlonega half eagles.
There are a few dates with higher overall CAC populations than I expected. These include the 1839-D, the 1840-D, the 1842-D Small Date, the 1846-D, and the 1848-D. These are dates that I don’t see that often in unmolested circulated grades.
1861-D $5.00 PCGS AU58 CAC, OLD GREEN HOLDER; Highest-graded CAC-approved example we have sold in recent years
The 1861-D is an issue which merits its own brief discussion. There are three Uncirculated examples that have been approved by CAC (one in MS62 and two in MS63). Two things stand out about this higher-than-expected population. The first is that higher-grade 1861-D half eagles are less rare than generally realized as this date was likely saved at the time it was struck. Also, my gut tells me that the graders at CAC tend to be more tolerant on a rarity such as the 1861-D than they are on a common date like the 1853-D. This is understandable and it is something that is seen on virtually all famous rare date issues.
After more than a decade of examining third-party graded coins, the number of specific issues approved by CAC give us one of the more comprehensive and accurate records of which dates are truly rare from the standpoint of appearance rarity.
I find the numbers as they relate to Dahlonega half eagles to be pretty much as expected. In the current marketplace, a common date D-mint half eagle in Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated now sells for a premium in excess of 20% (and in some cases as much as 50%) and for really nice coins I think these premiums are justified. The premiums in higher grades (MS60 and finer) are probably not as great as they should be, and this is attributable to the fact that most collectors focus on circulated instead of Uncirculated grades. That said, I expect premiums for very nice coins graded MS62 and finer to climb as specialists become aware of their true rarity.
Now that you’ve read my take on the appearance rarity of Dahlonega half eagles, it makes sense to analyze Charlotte half eagles using the same variables.
I have long specialized in Southern branch mint gold and my impression has always been that Charlotte half eagles are easier to locate in high grades than their counterparts from Dahlonega. With the sample size from CAC now large enough to make important conclusions, it makes for an interesting study; both as individual series and in direct comparison.
Before we go any further, let’s look at the Charlotte half eagles in a convenient chart format:
*varieties exist for each date marked with an asterisk
The total number of CAC-approved Charlotte half eagles is actually lower than I expected, with a total of 433 versus a total of a total of 549 for Dahlonega. Part of this is attributable to the fact that there are 26 different issues for Dahlonega half eagles versus 24 for Charlotte.
What is especially interesting is the total percentage of CAC-approved Uncirculated coins that have been seen from each of the two mints.
There is a caveat to these numbers. Of the 63 Charlotte half eagles graded MS60 or finer by CAC, a whopping 13 (or 20.63%) are dated 1852-C. If we were to remove this date from the overall list of Charlotte half eagles, then we would have 50 Uncirculated coins approved by CAC out of 435 coins, for a total of 11.49%. This is still a sizable percentage more than for Dahlonega half eagles but it certainly closer to the 8.28% mark shown above.
There are a few big surprises that can be gleaned from the appearance rarity data resulting from CAC’s numbers. The first is that the 1839-C is the rarest date on this list and by a fairly significant margin.
Interestingly, the figure of just six coins approved in all grades for the 1839-C ties it with the far-rarer 1842-D Large Date as the single-lowest CAC population of any half eagle from either Charlotte or Dahlonega. I have handled a number of 1839-C half eagles that I thought were pretty nice, but given the fact that just six are CAC approved, I guess this number wasn’t as great as I remember.
1844-C $5.00 NGC MS63 CAC
The next rarest dates from the standpoint of appearance rarity are the 1842-C Small Date, the 1854-C, the 1846-C, the 1842-C Large Date, and the 1844-C.
The date I find surprising in this group is the 1842-C Large Date. It is a date that seems to come nicer than the other five dates on this list. Just for grins, let’s look at current (12/19) PCGS population data on these issues:
Here are a few personal observations about some of the dates on this list.
1842-C LARGE DATE $5.00 PCGS MS64 CAC
I have seen some Uncirculated 1842-C Large Date half eagles that were processed and these likely did not pass at CAC when they were sent there. I believe the figure of “8” Uncirculated coins for the 1844-C is inflated by resubmissions as is the figure for Uncirculated 1854-C half eagles. Also, it is important to note that as many as three of the Uncirculated 1854-C half eagles graded by PCGS (and NGC) are Weak C coins that weren’t indicated as such by this service. If these were sent to CAC, they would likely flunk.
A total of three Charlotte half eagles do not have a single Uncirculated coin approved by CAC. These are the 1839-C, 1850-C, and 1859-C. I’ve already been surprised once by the 1839-C so I’m not going to dwell on this issue.
The other two dates are also surprising as they really aren’t that rare in Uncirculated. The 1850-C has a population of 15 in Uncirculated at PCGS; you’d think that at least one or two would garner a sticker at CAC. The 1859-C has a population of eight at PCGS and it also has none approved by CAC.
This, however, is more understandable based on the fact that all known examples were struck from improperly prepared reverse dies and even high-grade 1859-C half eagles have terrible overall eye appeal.
1838-C $5.00 PCGS MS63+ CAC
There are seven dates with only one coin approved in Uncirculated by CAC. These are the 1838-C, the 1842-C Small Date, the 1843-C, the 1854-C, the 1855-C, the 1856-C, and the 1861-C. The dates that surprise me from this group are the 1843-C, the 1855-C, and the 1856-C. I wouldn’t call any of them “common”, but they are way more available than the other four dates that I regard as genuinely rare in Uncirculated.
The three most common dates in CAC-approved Uncirculated grades are the 1852-C (13), the 1847-C (7), and the 1849-C (5). The 1852-C deserves special mention as it is a hoard date with at least two groups of four to six nice Uncirculated coins having been located in the last few decades. Many of these coins grade in the MS62 to MS64 range and they rate as some of the nicest Charlotte half eagles of any date that I have seen.
The most common dates in all grades combined are the the 1847-C, the 1848-C, the 1849-C and the 1852-C. This makes sense as these are relatively high-mintage dates that can be located in circulated grades with relative ease. The one interesting anomaly here is the rarity of the 1848-C in nice Uncirculated. I long ago noted the rarity of this date in Uncirculated and this has been verified by its super-low CAC population of just two coins.
What if a well-heeled collector attempted to corner the market on Charlotte half eagles graded MS60 or finer that were approved by CAC? He would have to purchase a total of 63 coins. If we assume an average value of $25,000 per coin, he would have a total market capitalization of $1,575,000. This isn’t really a ton of money considering the fact that he would have total control of an interesting market segment.
With over 10 years of having verified third-party grading of US coins, CAC data has become a valid source for determining the appearance rarity of most coin types and even specific dates. Hopefully, my skimming of this data for analysis of Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles has proven useful.
Would you like to assemble a set of CAC approved Dahlonega or Charlotte half eagles? Contact Doug Winter, the world’s leading expert on branch mint gold to get started? Doug can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at (214) 675-9897.
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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.