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    Extraordinary 1837 Half Eagle, MS66

    1837 $5 MS66 NGC. This Premium Gem has complete, blazing original luster and is unusually well struck, particularly on the curls near the ear and on the left shield border, which are often incompletely brought up for the type. This is only the second Premium Gem 1837 half eagle we have offered since 1993. The only prior auction appearances of an MS66 1837 were in Part II of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, in October 1999, and in our own February 2008 auction, when we offered this same coin. The Bass specimen is different from the present piece, which can be identified by a small, inconspicuous mark beneath the second S in STATES. Many years may pass before advanced collectors can seize another opportunity.
    Only three die varieties are known for the 1837 half eagles, all distinguishable by the obverse alone. Examples have either a Script 8 or Block 8 date style, with the Block 8 style showing either a single or double curl in front of the forehead. This Premium Gem is an example of the Block 8 date style with single curl. There are actually three different reverse dies as well for the issue, but they are more difficult to attribute. All three die marriages are collectible but all are scarce, since the 1837 has the lowest mintage among all Philadelphia issues of the type. Presumably, the historically high mintages from 1834 to 1836 fulfilled the economic demand for gold coins during an era when private bank notes were more common in circulation.
    The typical 1837 half eagle grades VF to AU, when it is encountered at all. Equivalent in value to today's high denomination note, the usual 1837 five dollar piece went from hand to hand slowly, in contrast to a large cent that was spent on everyday purchases. As the largest gold denomination of its day, the 1837 half eagle was a store of value and was set aside. Unlike its counterparts from late in the 19th century, such pieces were owned by individuals instead of banks. Eventually, banks held their reserves in the form of gold coins, which explains why late-date Liberty half eagles are comparatively plentiful in Mint State. In the 1830s, however, bank reserves consisted mainly of Capped Bust halves.
    An 1837 half eagle would be held for a time and then spent on farming equipment or a similar major purchase. Changing hands a few times a year, many remained in AU condition, or in lower Mint State grades with slightly impaired field luster. Premium Gems are virtually unheard of, since the purchasing power of a half eagle could improve one's life, and such practical considerations triumphed over any desire to keep a pristine example as a keepsake. No one seriously collected gold coins until after the Civil War, when increased numismatic knowledge and a growing concentration of wealth made such a venture possible.
    The total mintage of Classic half eagles exceeded 2 million pieces. Eventually most of the mintage was exported overseas, since foreign traders accepted gold but not paper money. The coins were then melted and transformed into more familiar local types. At most 2% of the original type mintage, or 40,000 pieces, has survived in any condition. Those are distributed among the five years of the type. Many are cleaned, damaged, or otherwise undesirable, and the vast majority show wear.
    At the MS66 level, Classic half eagles are virtually nonexistent. NGC has certified just three examples, two 1834 Plain 4 pieces and the present 1837. PCGS has encapsulated four examples, one each of the 1834 Plain 4 and 1838 plus two 1837 half eagles. With possible duplication, the combined NGC and PCGS data consists of seven MS66 pieces, with none finer, for the entire type. Just three of those are 1837 half eagles. Large Date, Large 5, Breen-6512, McCloskey 2-B, R.3. Population: 2 in 66, none finer (6/09).
    Ex: Heritage (2/2008), lot 2481.
    From The Wisconsin Gold Type Set Collection.
    (Registry values: P1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 25RZ, PCGS# 8175)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View all of [The Wisconsin Gold Type Set Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Jul-Aug, 2009
    31st-2nd Friday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,050

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    15% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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