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    Description

    1802/1 Capped Bust Right Half Eagle, MS64+
    Popular BD-8 High Overdate Variety
    Only One Finer Coin at PCGS

    1802/1 $5 MS64+ PCGS. BD-8, R.4. Bass-Dannreuther Die State c/b. A substantial mintage of 53,176 Capped Bust Right half eagles was accomplished in 1802, with eight die varieties known for the date. All the 1802-dated coins were struck using overdated obverse dies from 1801, as no half eagles were minted that year. This coin represents the popular BD-8 variety, with the 2 in the date touching the bust, perfect T's in the legends, and the final S in STATES positioned over the far right side of a cloud. The BD-8 is one of the more available varieties of this date, with a surviving population of 150-200 examples in all grades. The BD-8 probably accounted for 10,000-15,000 pieces of the reported mintage for the year. The obverse die was used earlier to strike the BD-6 and BD-7 varieties, but this was the only use of the reverse die, which developed a large cud over T in UNITED in the terminal state.

    The 1802/1 half eagle was a popular issue with early collectors and the overdate was recognized at an early date. An early auction appearance was lot 2755 in the Sixth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1865):

    "1802 over 1801; uncirculated, as fine as proof; scarce."


    Of course, the term "proof" had a different meaning to numismatists of the mid-19th century than it has today. In the early days of the hobby, European numismatists called coins struck as prototypes for a new design "proofs" (they are called patterns today). At some time around 1860, Mint Director James Ross Snowden began calling coins specially produced as presentation pieces for VIP's and collectors "proofs" (they were earlier called "specimen" or "master" coins). The term "proof" was loosely understood to mean a coin in the finest possible grade to collectors of the 19th century. Today the term is rigorously defined as a coin produced by a specific method of manufacture, using specially polished planchets and dies, and being struck more than once to fully bring up the design detail. The earliest true proofs in this country were produced in 1816, so the coin in Woodward's Sixth Semi-Annual Sale was probably a high-quality Uncirculated specimen, like the coin offered here. The lot realized $9, a strong price at the time, to Thomas Cleneay. Recent auction appearances include the MS65 PCGS example in lot 4847 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2012), which realized $138,000.

    The present coin is a high-end Choice example, vibrant satiny mint luster and well-preserved antique-gold surfaces that show a few barely perceptible traces of planchet adjustment marks in the obverse fields. The design elements are sharply struck in most areas, with just a touch of the usual softness on the eagle's left (facing) claw. Light clash marks are evident on both sides and a thin die crack is visible through UNIT in UNITED. Eye appeal is terrific. With only one finer coin at PCGS, this piece is a strong Registry Set candidate. Population: 21 in 64 (2 in 64+), 1 finer (1/15). (NGC ID# 25NX, Variety PCGS# 519889, Base PCGS# 8083)

    Weight: 8.75 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Feb-Mar, 2015
    26th-1st Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 21
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,403

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