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Description

1818 Half Eagle, 5D Over 50, BD-3, MS65
Second-Finest Survivor of Rare Die Pair

1818 $5 5D Over 50 MS65 PCGS. BD-3, R.5. Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/a, the earlier unclashed state. There are three die varieties for the 1818 half eagle, each a discrete obverse-reverse pair with no single-die replacements as "bridges." Two of the reverse dies are blundered, the BD-2 with STATESOF as one word and the BD-3 with the D in 5D punched over an initial erroneous zero. While the 5 in the denomination is neither recut nor repunched, the Bass-Dannreuther reference notes that calling the variety "D/0," while technically correct, leaves ambiguous which "D" has the underdigit (as there is a D in UNITED).

Of the three die pairs, the BD-2 or STATESOF variant is the most available, though it is very scarce regardless of condition. The BD-3 or 5D Over 50 is the rarest, with the Bass-Dannreuther reference suggesting 35 to 45 examples known out of an estimated mintage of 7,500 to 10,000 pieces. Such figures would suggest a survival rate of under one percent, but this is also consistent with the experience of pre-1834 U.S. gold coins in general: struck to weight and fineness standards that soon made the gold content worth more than face value, melted clandestinely in the years leading up to the standards change in 1834, and then officially and publicly after the shift in tenor. Another half eagle issue, the 1815, illustrates this mass melting with its recorded mintage of 635 pieces and a census of only 11 acknowledged survivors.

The 1818 half eagles were the first coins of the denomination struck after that miserably small mintage. The issue following the 1818, the 1819, has a recorded output of 51,723 pieces, more than its predecessor, yet both recognized varieties are important rarities whose combined survivorship might match that of the 1818 5D Over 50 but likely is appreciably less. It also is worth noting that the one single-die swap involving any of the 1818 dies happened when the 5D Over 50 reverse was paired with an 1819 obverse, a multiyear carryover.

Just as the mass destruction of the 1818 half eagles as pre-1834 gold coins is not particularly a surprise, neither is the significant of high-grade pieces among the known survivors. It stands to reason that most of the surviving coins would have been saved deliberately, hence the bias toward AU and Mint State pieces. While resubmissions likely have inflated the number of Mint State coins in the population data (the cluster of five MS63 5D/50 examples in the PCGS Population Report, none in MS64, and two coins finer certainly appears suspicious), there is still a strong sense of the variety's rarity.

Among 1818 5D/50 half eagles, PCGS has graded only this coin in MS65 and one example finer, as of (11/13); the finer MS66 coin may be the Eliasberg specimen sold in 1982 and not sold at public auction since. This Gem's surfaces, wonderfully coppery antique-gold with substantial orange overtones, have warmly swirling luster and are smooth aside from shallow abrasions and a few deeper marks, most visibly at the bottom of the neck and to the right of star 13, that may serve as pedigree identifiers in the future. A coin of great importance and a strong candidate to set a new auction record for the variety.
Ex: Fairchild Family Trust Collection (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 5/2001), lot 1351.
From the collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 25PR, PCGS# 8120)

View all of [The collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation ]

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Auction Dates
January, 2014
8th-12th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
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