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Popular 1820 Square Base 2
Half Eagle, MS65, BD-3

1820 $5 Square 2 MS65 NGC. Large Letters, Breen-6476, BD-3, R.5. Star 1 is distant from the bust, and star 13 does not quite touch the lowest hair curl behind Liberty's head. There are three joined dentils at the rim between stars 8 and 9. On the reverse, the TE in STATES is level.
The 1820 date is among the most curious and interesting of the many fascinating half eagles of the 1820s, if not on a par with the fabulously rare 1822, of which but three examples are known, or the 1825/4, which only has two pieces known. Going by the rarity estimates given in Bass-Dannreuther, from 375 to 476 examples of half eagles from 1820 through 1829 are known, of which the 1820-dated varieties constitute about one-third of the total. (The recorded mintage of 1820 half eagles, at 263,806 coins, was an overlarge one that was never again even approached during the 1820s.) However, since there are nine varieties of 1820 half eagle, all of them individually range from "rare" (R.5) to "extremely rare" (R.7). In fact, of the 25 known die pairings of half eagles dated from 1820 through 1829, one only single die pairing, the R.4 1823 (BD-1, the only known marriage for the year) can be considered less than rare, with an estimated 80 to 100 known survivors.
Focusing on only the varieties dated 1820, the current 2009 Guide Book lists three varieties for the year: the Curved Base 2, Large Letters; the Curved Base 2, Small Letters; and the Square Base 2 (all of which are Large Letters marriages; there are no known Square Base 2, Small Letters variants). Bass-Dannreuther lists four varieties with Square Base 2, Large Letters: BD-1, R.7; BD-2, High R.5; BD-3, R.5; and BD-4, High R.7. There are two Curved Base 2, Large Letters varieties, BD-5, R.6, and BD-7, High R.7; and there are three Curved Base 2, Small Letters varieties: BD-6, R.7; BD-8, High R.7; and BD-9, High R.7.
This coin, then, is among the most "common" varieties of Square Base 2, Large Letters, although all are rare. And regardless of the variety this piece is conditionally rare, as only a single Square Base 2 certified MS66 at PCGS is known to exceed the grade of the present example. (The population data are not especially helpful, particularly at NGC, which shows more than four dozen 1820 half eagles unattributed by variety--49 of them in Mint State.)
With so many different dies used in this single year, this piece displays the bright, shimmering prooflike fields one would expect. The devices are also nicely frosted. The striking definition is also complete in all areas, both obverse and reverse. There are no reportable abrasions on either side. All of which adds up to a coin with superior eye appeal for the grade. An outstanding Capped Bust half eagle.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 25PW, PCGS# 8125)

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Auction Dates
January, 2009
7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 3
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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