Five Brief Takes: Carson City Half Eagles

By Doug WinterRareGoldCoins.com ……
 

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This is the third installment of a new feature (the first two can be found here and here). My plan is to do these on a fairly regular basis; perhaps two or three times per month. I am always looking for topics, so if you have any suggestions, send me an email at dwn@ont.com.

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Carson City half eagles continue to be very popular with collectors. Unlike their 10 dollar and 20 dollar counterparts, this series is completable with no six-figure rarities, and there are enough affordable collector grade coins to satisfy the whole gamut of gold coin budgets.

A lot has been happening in this area of late, so here is five brief takes into the world of Carson City half eagles.

Europe Yields Some Major Finds

1878-CC $5.00 NGC AU58, EX HERITAGE. Courtesy Doug Winter

1878-CC $5.00 NGC AU58, EX HERITAGE. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)

It isn’t widely known but a significant number of important Carson City gold coins have been located in Europe in recent years. This is certainly the case for half eagles where some recent discoveries include the following:

The second-finest known 1874-CC (graded MS63 by PCGS) was sold in the very important and very under-the-radar Künker Sale #340 held in Germany last winter. Graded MS61+ by NGC in the auction, it narrowly trails a PCGS MS63+ that was “re-discovered” in the Stack’s Bowers 3/2018 sale (at $90k as a PCGS/CAC MS62) after having disappeared into a collector black hole since June 1991.

The second-finest known 1876-CC (graded MS62 by NGC and now, it appears, in a PCGS MS62 holder), which was sold in a special one-lot online auction by Spink’s in London on December 14, 2020 for $84,000 (including a 20% buyer’s premium). The only example of this date that is finer is the incomparable PCGS/CAC MS66 Eliasberg/Battle Born coin.

In their January 2020 auction, Heritage sold a fresh-to-the-market NGC AU58 1878-CC half eagle for a strong $72,000. A year later, Heritage sold the exact same coin—now in a PCGS AU58+ holder—for $78,000. This coin, which is the best 1878-CC I’ve ever seen and likely the finest known—is said to have come from Europe.

Low-Grade CC Half Eagles Gain Acceptance With Collectors

When I first started dealing in Carson City half eagles, coins grading Good to Very Fine weren’t all that popular with collectors. But as higher grade coins became very expensive, these collector grade coins grew noticeably more popular; especially if they were evenly worn and wholesome.

Five Brief Takes: Carson City Half Eagles, 1872-CC $5.00 PCGS F12 CAC. Courtesy Doug Winter

1872-CC $5.00 PCGS F12 CAC

Values are tricky for these coins as they typically sell for multiples of their PCGS Price Guide listings. My litmus test for values on these coins is pretty straightforward: if the coin is really nice (PCGS/CAC) and there is a big price jump to the next grade (say, Fine to Very Fine), you can pay 25-50% over price guide and probably not get hurt.

The Fairmont-ization Of the CC Half Eagle Market

The Fairmont Collection has had a considerable impact on values in the Carson City half eagles and the impact has been a net positive.

Five Brief Takes: Carson City Half Eagles, 1881-CC $5.00 PCGS AU50, FAIRMONT COLLECTION, EX STACK’S BOWERS. Courtesy Doug Winter

1881-CC $5.00 PCGS AU50, Fairmont Collection, EX STACK’S BOWERS

From what we have seen so far, there are no major rarities in this hoard (i.e., 1870-CC, 1873-CC, or 1878-CC) and the coins from the 1870s are mostly collector grades with great overall eye appeal. The 1880s issues have been more dramatically impacted. As an example, there have been three nice 1881-CC pieces from this source sold by Stack’s Bowers in the last year. Let’s look at the results:

  • 3/21: PCGS/CAC AU50 sold for $7,800
  • 11/20: PCGS/CAC AU55 sold for $12,000
  • 8/20: PCGS/CAC AU55 sold for $12,000

This clearly demonstrates that the market is deep enough to absorb nice examples of the 1880s dates when they become available.

The 1870-CC Regains Its Mojo

Given its low mintage and its status as the first CC half eagle, the 1870-CC half eagle had been curiously overlooked until recently.

Five Brief Takes: Carson City Half Eagles, 1870-CC $5.00 PCGS VF25 CAC, EX HERITAGE. Courtesy Doug Winter

1870-CC $5.00 PCGS VF25 CAC, EX HERITAGE

Demand for this issue has shot up but the supply is very low. It’s been at least five years since I’ve handled a truly nice example and I was pretty impressed that a decent PCGS VF25 sold for $31,200 in the Heritage January 2021 auction; given that two PCGS VF20s sold for $17,400 and $18,000 in 2019.

It would be interesting to see what a nice PCGS/CAC AU55 or AU58 example of this date would bring in today’s market. It has been years since such a coin was available, and I don’t doubt that the competition for such a coin would be extremely fierce.

What’s in Store for the CC Half Eagle Series?

Here are three reasons why I think the future is really bright for Carson City half eagles:

There are no six-figure rarities or impossibly scarce coins in this series. It is challenging (you can’t just race through a set), but not as much so as the CC eagles (an exceptionally difficult series to collect) or the double eagles (expensive and challenging).

The existence of European hoards has placed small numbers of really nice CC half eagles into the marketplace. Today’s collectors are getting a chance to buy some of the nicest Carson City half eagles that I can recall having seen since the huge hoards came out of Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. These coins aren’t cheap but they represent exceptional quality, especially the Fairmont coins dated from 1880 to 1893.

Half eagles, as a rule, have become a much more collected denomination in the last few years. For many collectors, gold dollars and quarter eagles are too small, Three Dollar gold pieces are too weird, and eagles/double eagles have gotten really expensive. That leaves half eagles as a sweet spot for a number of new (and existing) collectors.

1874-CC $5.00 PCGS AU55 CAC. Courtesy Doug Winter

1874-CC $5.00 PCGS AU55 CAC

 

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

Get Your Copies of Doug’s Books at CoinWeek Supplies.

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug 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.

 

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