Press Release - March 23, 2004

Heritage to offer only Certified Mint State 1797 16 Stars Half Eagle at June Long Beach Platinum Night

Dallas, Texas: The only 1797 16 Stars half eagle certified as Mint State by either NGC or PCGS will be placed under the auction hammer at Heritage's Platinum Night session of the June Long Beach Signature Sale, June 2-5. Heritage is the official auctioneer of the Long Beach Coin Expo.

Paired with a Small Eagle reverse, the half eagle is encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation as MS60, the single finest among four examples of that issue certified by NGC. (PCGS has not certified any pieces above AU58). Die variety specialists will recognize it as Breen 12-K (Early U.S. Half Eagles 1795-1838, Walter Breen, 1968) or Miller-19 (United States Half Eagle Gold Coins 1795-1834, Robert W. Miller Sr., 1997).

According to Mark Van Winkle, Chief Cataloger of Heritage Numismatic Auctions, the rare half eagle possesses "the usual green-gold coloration one expects from early gold with almost none of the reddish patina often seen. Close examination shows considerable prooflikeness around the stars and legends. This reflective quality is only interrupted by numerous small abrasions in the fields, none of which are large enough to merit individual mention. Well struck around the margins, there is slight softness noted in the centers over Liberty's hair and the eagle's breast. A very rare opportunity to acquire one of the key issues in the half eagle series."

The piece is pedigreed to the legendary U.S. gold collection of Harry W. Bass, Jr. Its only known prior auction appearance was in the second Bass sale held by Bowers and Merena on October 3, 1999 in New York City. Cataloged as lot 721 in that sale, it sold for $115,000. Bass had previously purchased the piece from Stanley Kesselman on July 16, 1973.

A second Bass example of the variety is currently on display in the American Numismatic Association museum. Listed as HBCC-3047 in The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Museum Sylloge (2001), it represents a much earlier die state than the Heritage Long Beach example, which has four separate slender die cracks that converge on the lower half of the eagle's body.

The same obverse die was also used to produce the extremely rare Breen 12-L Small Eagle variety and the unique Breen 12-X Large Eagle from the Josiah K. Lilly collection, now permanently held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Images, descriptions, and prices realized are available in the Permanent Auction Archives at the Heritage website,

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