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1818 Capped Head Left Half Eagle, MS64
Rare 5D Over 50 Variety, BD-3
Only Two Examples Certified Finer

1818 $5 MS64 NGC. 5D Over 50, Breen 6472, BD-3, R.5. A total of 48,588 Capped Head Left half eagles were minted in 1818, with three die varieties known for the date. The present coin is a representative of the BD-3 variety, easily distinguished by the D in the denomination punched over a numeral 0. The BD-3 die marriage is the rarest variety of the date, with an estimated initial mintage of 7,500-10,000 pieces. John Dannreuther suggests perhaps 35-45 examples survive in all grades today. The issue is extremely rare at the near-Gem level, as NGC has certified only the present coin in MS64, with none finer; while PCGS has graded no examples at the near-Gem level, with two finer (11/09).
As a date, 1818 half eagles have always been prized by collectors. The BD-3 variety was first noticed by Henry Chapman in the Harlan P. Smith Collection (Chapman, 6/1906), lot 205:

"1818 Erratic stars, one being placed beneath the lower curl of hair near the date. Rev. The D in the denomination has been cut over the letter 0 showing that the die sinker originally made it 50 instead of 5D. Uncir. Mint lustre."

The curious overstruck letter was soon forgotten by the numismatic community, except for specialists like Edgar Adams and John H. Clapp. Chapman himself did not notice it when he sold another example of the rare variety as lot 2383 of the George Earle Collection in June of 1912. On that occasion, Chapman simply noted the denomination was a "Close 5D" as opposed to the "Wide 5D" of the other two varieties. The overstrike was popularized as a distinct variety in the 1950s, when New Netherlands sold an example in one of their sales.
The present coin is a memorable specimen, with softly frosted mint luster and rich reddish color on each side. The striking details are extremely sharp, with only slight weakness on the lower hair curl and the eagle's talons. The surfaces are minimally abraded, the only mentionable flaw being a short area of shallow pinscratching to the right of the second S in STATES. The coin offered here is one of the finest survivors of this rare early half eagle variety.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# BFXW, PCGS# 8120)

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Auction Dates
January, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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