By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
I was recently offered a very common but very saleable New Orleans half eagle that should have been very easy to price and purchase. Instead, it turned into a Coin Pricing Fiasco, which, in turn, inspired this quick article.
The coin in question is a PCGS AU55 1844-O half eagle. This is, by far, the most available No Motto half eagle from this facility, and there are currently 48 graded as such by PCGS, with another 74 finer. Even counting for resubmissions, this is a significant number of 1844-O half eagles that have been graded in AU55 and higher grades.
An 1844-O $5.00 in PCGS AU55 CAC. Image courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
The owner of this coin asked me what I would pay for it. I asked him for the PCGS serial number for the specific coin and looked at the PCGS TrueView image. The coin was nice and with no due diligence, I told him I would pay around $1,400 to $1,500 as it is a coin that I would likely be a seller of at around $1,750 as a non-CAC, and $2,150 if it were CAC-approved.
The owner then pointed out that there were three fairly recent auction prices realized for PCGS AU55 1844-O half eagles in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. In August 2021, a PCGS/CAC coin brought $3,360, while in June 2021 a different PCGS/CAC realized $3,600. In March of this year, a third PCGS/CAC AU55 sold for $3,840. It is important to note that all three were nice original coins pedigreed to the Fairmont hoard. It is equally important to note that (in my opinion) while all three were nice, none were likely upgrades to AU58.
During the same year (2021), there were two auction price records for non-CAC PCGS AU55 1844-O half eagles. One was for $1,525 in August 2021, while the other was for $1,140 in March 2021. It should also be noted that the three prior APRs for the 1844-O half eagle in PCGS AU55 were $1,357 (11/2020), $1,162 (7/2019), and $1,020 (12/2018).
So this begs the question: Is a PCGS AU55 1844-O half eagle worth $1,400… or is it worth $3,750?
The answer is that some 1844-O half eagles are worth the former, while others are worth the latter. Going further down the rabbit hole, it must be asked: Are all PCGS/CAC AU55 examples of this date worth $3,750? What about a nice PCGS/CAC AU55 1844-O that’s crusty and original but lacks the Fairmont pedigree?
The answer is probably not – but there are enough auction records to state that a nice Fairmont pedigreed example seems to be worth this amount.
An 1844-O $5.00 in NGC AU55
This points out just why coin pricing is very complex, even with a reasonably common issue such as a PCGS AU55 1844-O half eagle. You need to remember that the rare date gold market is very thinly traded due to limited supplies and that even a “frequently traded” issue–such as an 1844-O half eagle in PCGS AU55–has just three CAC-approved examples sold at auction in the past few years.
In the end, this situation probably means that it will be impossible for me to convince a seller that his nice AU55 1844-O isn’t worth $3,750.
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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 a 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 “Red Book”) 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.