Early U.S. Gold Coins - One of the Finest Known 1831 Half Eagles

The 1831 Capped Head Left half eagle claims a substantial mintage of 140,594 pieces, split between just two die varieties.

The upcoming August 2 – 4 ANA Worlds’ Fair of Money US Coins Signature Auction from Heritage features one such piece, graded MS64 by PCGS and representing the slightly more available BD-2 variety, recognizable by the Large D in the denomination. The obverse die was also used to strike the BD-1 variety of 1831 but this was the only use of the reverse die.

From recently discovered die evidence, it now appears that the BD-2 variety of 1831 was struck between die marriages of the BD-1 variety.

The BD-2 is seldom encountered in today’s market and PCGS CoinFacts estimates the surviving population at 25 to 30 examples in all grades, a solid R.6 in overall rarity. When available, which tends to be only when specialized collections of early half eagles are sold, the Large D tends to grade in the AU58 to MS62 range. It is rare in MS63 and higher and this piece is among the finest known; both for the variety and for the date. The leading grading services have combined to certify a total of 26 specimens of this date including all varieties.

This coin is likely the third-finest known 1831 half eagle of either variety, trailing only the Pogue MS67 Small D and the PCGS MS65+ Large D, also from the Pogue Collection, which brought $235,000 USD in May 2016. Another coin graded MS65 by PCGS shows in the census, but it is likely the same coin as the MS65+.

The present example is a delightful Choice half eagle that exhibits the “glow” seen on certain high-quality, original gold coins from this era. It is well struck for the issue with almost no weakness in the centers or on the stars, and both sides display dazzling, unbroken mint frost. There are just enough shallow marks to remove this lovely piece from Gem classification, but it has the strongest eye appeal of any of the 1830s half eagles in the remarkable McCoy Family Collection. This would be a perfect coin for the type collector who seeks a single Capped Head Left reduced diameter half eagle.
 

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