By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
Despite its low mintage of just 10,000 coins, the 1892-O half eagle is a coin that doesn’t receive a lot of love, even from New Orleans gold specialists. This is likely because it is lumped in with the 1893-O and the 1894-O, which are much more available.
The rarity profile of the 1892-O is far different than any of the low-mintage No Motto half eagles from the New Orleans Mint. Those issues are generally seen in Extremely Fine and the lowest About Uncirculated grades, and all of them are very rare in Uncirculated. Clearly, those issues saw active use in the Antebellum economy that was New Orleans and the Deep South during these pre-Civil War years.
The 1892-O is entirely different in that virtually every example that exists grades AU55 or finer. There are a small number of coins known in the EF45 to AU53 range, but these are generally Choice AU coins that have been net graded due to excessive abrasions or past cleanings. The 1892-O is sometimes available in the lowest Uncirculated grades and these coins have a similar appearance: excessive abrasions with somewhat subdued luster as a result.
1892-O $5.00 PCGS MS63 CAC. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
I recently handled the single best 1892-O half eagle I have ever seen. Graded MS63 by PCGS and approved by CAC, it has an appearance unlike virtually every other example known. As the picture above will confirm, the coin had extremely clean surfaces with resultant unbroken satiny luster. The eye appeal was further enhanced by an attractive natural yellow-gold color – which was a welcome exception to the bright, “dippy” appearance shown by most 1892-O half eagles.
When I was working on the recent third edition of my New Orleans gold book [The second edition of Doug’s book is available on CoinWeek Supplies for $34.95 USD. —CoinWeek], I listed this coin as being tied for the second finest known with one other coin graded MS63 by PCGS. Ironically, I had forgotten that I handled this exact coin a number of years ago and had sold it to a specialized collector from Illinois. When he sold it back to me recently, I had a head-slapping moment and quickly remembered this exact coin. It was the best 1892-O half eagle I had seen then, and it remains the best I have seen up through the present time.
PCGS shows a population of two coins in MS63 with just one finer; an MS64. I have never seen or heard of the higher-graded 1892-O, and the highest-graded 1892-O to ever sell at auction is a PCGS MS62+.
I sold this coin to the New England Collection, which, as I have mentioned before, is by far the finest set of New Orleans gold ever assembled. It had been many years since I located a half eagle which would be an upgrade for the collection. The previous 1892-O was graded MS62 by PCGS, and while nice for the issue it couldn’t compare to the new MS63.
Despite the obvious rarity of this coin it was still reasonably priced as I sold it for less than $20,000. Given that it is one of the two finest known examples of a legitimately scarce (and popular) issue, this seems like very good value to me.
If you’d like to purchase coins such as this 1892-O half eagle for your collection, please feel free to call me at (214) 675-9897 or email me at [email protected].
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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.