1833 BD-1 Half Eagle, PR61
1833 $5 Large Date PR61 NGC. BD-1, R.5, R.8 as a Proof. The
1833 proof half eagle holds the 44th spot in the third edition of
Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth's 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. It was
struck during the opening year of the second Mint building in 1833,
and is likely one of the first gold coins produced at the new
Only Three Known
Two in Collectors' Hands
The '44th Greatest' U.S. Coin
This early die state proof shows no signs of clash marks or cracks, with slight evidence of lapping, as certain details are diminished. The reverse die was used with two 1832-dated obverse dies, and with two 1833-dated obverse dies. Examination of the large plates in John Dannreuther's Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, A Study of Die States, 1795-1834, clearly shows the progression of die lapping, especially at the eagle's talon that hangs down from the upper leaf pair.
The deeply mirrored fields of this green-gold proof surround satin devices, imparting a trace of cameo contrast. Proof finish appears in the recesses of the design, such as the letters of LIBERTY and the spaces between shield stripes. The fields are lightly hairlined with other minor surface marks expected for the grade. A hint of striking softness is noted at the usual spots, especially among the wing feathers just left of the shield. When it was offered 14 years ago, this piece was conservatively graded PR58 NGC, and that old grading event still appears in the NGC Census Report.
The census of 1833 proof half eagles is hardly complicated, as only three or four are known, one in the Smithsonian Institution, and another in a tightly held private collection. Nothing is known of the third piece in the following roster. The present specimen is the only one that will likely be available to collectors at any time in the foreseeable future. It is also a lower grade than the others, meaning it is more affordable, relatively speaking.
The three proofs are all from the BD-1 or Large Date die pair, with no proofs known from the Small Date obverse die. At PCGS Coin Facts, Ron Guth concurs that there are three known proofs. There are also a couple of other pieces that have been called proof in the past, but are now considered prooflike business strikes. Dannreuther mentions the Smithsonian piece in his reference, but fails to mention either of the other two specimens.
Roster of 1833 Proof Half Eagles
PR67 PCGS. Pittman Specimen. J. Colvin Randall; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 1021; James W. Flanagan (Stack's, 2/1944); J.F. Bell (Stack's, 11/1944), lot 355; The Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 246a; John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 10/1997), lot 933; Al Adams; The Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30046; private collection.
PR65 Deep Cameo. Smithsonian Specimen. National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.
PR63 Cameo NGC. Unknown Specimen. An example certified PR63 Cameo NGC appears in that firm's Census Report. Its present whereabouts are unknown.
PR61 NGC. The Present Specimen. Bowers and Merena (7/2002), lot 784, where it was certified AU58 NGC.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 28B9, PCGS# 8167)
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