Gold Half Eagles BY Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com
Two discovered high grade 1840-C gold half eagles were in the 2011 Heritage Platinum Night session of the FUN auction and they gave us an interesting insight to the emission sequence and striking characteristics of the rare and popular 1840-C half eagle.
Prior to this discovery of these two coins, which were graded MS63 and MS64+ by PCGS, there were an estimated three to five known in Uncirculated. The previous finest known, pedigreed to the Pittman sale, is graded MS64. Ironically, that coin was in the sale also (and how thrilled was the consignor of the Pittman coin when he opened the catalog?) and this gave students of Charlotte gold half eagles an unprecedented opportunity to study the three finest known examples of the 1840-C in one fell swoop.
The two varieties are designated as Variety 1 and Variety 2. The varieties share a common obverse and one that is characterized by a rather amazing mispunched date with one appears to be the tops of a 1 and an 8 coming up from the denticles. The reverse of Variety 1 has a large mintmark placed closed to the stem that is slightly tilted to the right. On the second variety, the mintmark is tilted more towards the left.
Here’s a photo of Lot 5108 which is a Variety 1 coin in PCGS MS63. There are a couple of interesting things to note about this coin. The first is the poor overall quality of strike. Look at the weakness on the stars, the hair around the ear of Liberty, the neck feathers and the horizontal lines in the shield. Note as well the roughness at the peripheries. This is a characteristic of this variety: considerable roughness at the borders which is, of course, mint-made.
Even more interesting on the reverse are the extensive die cracks that can be seen at 4:00 and 9:00. This is a very late die state and, clearly, there were very few more coins produced before the reverse literally fell apart and was discarded.
Now let’s take a look at Variety 2.
This Variety 2 coin is graded MS64+ by PCGS and it is easily the finest known. In fact, the coin is really “as struck” but probably didn’t grade MS65 because of the roughness at the obverse center, as made.
The first thing you will probably gauge is how sharp the strike is in comparison to Variety 1. The stars have full radial lines, the denticles are complete and separated and the roughness seen at the inner border on the previous coin is lacking. Note, as well, how sharp the details are on the eagle in comparison to the previous coin.
But the most intruguing thing about this coin is the lack of reverse die cracks, except for a small one at the eagle’s right wingtip.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the two coins is, in some ways, one of the most subtle. You probably won’t be able to tell from these photos but on the earlier use of this obverse (lot 5110) there are small die lines that run in from the border. On the second coin (lot 5108) these lines do not exist and they have been removed by the mint (this process is known as “lapping.”)
What does this prove? That the sequence of these coins, as proposed by me, is incorrect and Variety 2 was actually made first. The reason that Variety 1 coins look so worn and weak is that they were made later in the production run, probably after the obverse die was lapped.
Ironically, neither of the two newly discovered 1840-C gold half eagles sold at the auction. This wasn’t the result of a lack of bidder interest (I would have been thrilled to buy both coins) but because the reserves placed on both lots by the consignor were too high.
Editors Note: Subsequently, both coins have been give CAC stickers and sold in 2018. The MS-63 sold for $48,000 at FUN in January as LOT #5035, and the MS-64+ sold for $120,000 in June Long Beach Expo as LOT #4137.
I can’t imagine there will be many other times that collectors will be able to see such fresh, high grade Charlotte gold half eagles in one place and that each coin will not only be a different die variety but will have an entirely different “look” as a result.
Thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use the images of the two 1840-C half eagles above.
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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.
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