Wonderful 1827 BD-1 Half Eagle Rarity, MS641827 $5 MS64 NGC. Breen-6486, BD-1, High R.5. During the 1820s, the face value of gold coins was less than the value of gold they contained, meaning that few were struck, and most were melted soon after. Large quantities were used in international trade, and were certainly melted overseas. Many others were hoarded domestically, and most of those were also melted. Only a few coins held by collectors, or set aside as mementos, are the pieces that remain today.
In his Complete Encyclopedia, Walter Breen discussed the survival, or lack thereof, for these coins:
"This and the following (Kneass's Modified Capped Heads, 1829-34) are by far the most difficult of all half eagle designs to obtain. The reason is not low mintage, but high meltage: a byproduct of the colossal influx of silver from Mexican and Peruvian mines. This immense increase in the supply of silver on world markets compared with gold lowered the price of silver reckoned in gold, appearing as an inexorable rise in the value of gold reckoned in Mexican dollars. This is the reality behind the numerous statements about the world ratio rising from Alexander Hamilton's original 1791-92 estimate (15 to 1) to nearly 18 to 1. Its major side effects included hoarding and melting of older gold coins when their bullion value exceeded their face value by enough to afford a profit over the cost of melting. In the National Archives is a reference to public assays (Paris, 1831), at one of which some 40,000 U.S. half eagles of 'recent mintage' (the elusive 1815-30) were melted and found to be of full weight and fineness. This was doubtless only one among many such holocausts, and more to come through 1837."
The 1827 half eagle provides an excellent illustration of the survival rate for these coins. According to Mint records, 24,913 half eagles were coined during the year from a single known die combination. Today it is believed that somewhat less than 50 examples are known. John Dannreuther estimates 35 to 45 known pieces. The number of survivors means that less than two coins still exist for every 1,000 pieces originally minted. Current population data and auction records support just such an estimate.
The single known variety shares a reverse die with some 1826 half eagles (variety BD-2), and it is possible that those 1826 pieces were actually struck in 1827 from a leftover obverse die, causing further complication in the actual analysis of survivors versus mintage.
This Choice Mint State half eagle has highly lustrous and brilliant green-gold surfaces with traces of pale orange color around the devices. The devices are crisp and sharply defined from an early die state with no evidence of die cracks, clash marks, or lapping. The few tiny abrasions are consistent with the grade. Census: 4 in 64, 1 finer (2/08).(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# BFY8, PCGS# 8136)
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