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    1820 Square Base 2 Half Eagle, MS63
    BD-4, The Norweb Coin
    One of Two Known Specimens
    Only Example Available to Collectors

    1820 $5 Square Base 2, Large Letters, BD-4, High R.7, MS63 NGC. Nine 1820 half eagle varieties exist to challenge collectors. Four of those die marriages have a Square Base 2, and five varieties feature a Curved Base 2. Despite a large total mintage of 263,806 pieces, only one variety (BD-3) can be considered somewhat available. All other 1820 varieties are either rare or very rare.

    This coin is the exceedingly rare BD-4 variety. It represents the ultimate in rarity among 1820 half eagles. In sheer number of coins known, the 1820 BD-4 equals or exceeds all varieties for rarity within the lengthy Capped Head to Left series (1813-1834). It rivals even the legendary 1815, 1822, and 1828/7 in the sheer number of pieces that exist.

    To our knowledge, only Harry W. Bass, Jr. successfully assembled a complete variety set of the nine 1820 die pairs. The BD-4 die marriage is the unquestioned stopper for such a set, and it is largely viewed as uncollectible. To date, only two pieces are known, and one of those remains part of the Harry Bass Core Collection, a coin that was obtained in 1970 from Stack's Alto sale, lot 135.

    The present coin is the only other known example, and it is the only example of this rare die pair available to today's collector. This is the former Norweb coin, which was acquired from J.C. Morgenthau on June 13, 1936. Any earlier history of the BD-4 variety is unclear, as might be expected for a gold coin of its rarity. In 1885, John Colvin Randall was aware of both the Square Base 2 and Curved Base 2 types, but offered no further information about varieties within the types. Perhaps William H. Woodin recognized the variety -- we cannot be sure -- based on his famous half eagle presentation at the 1914 ANA exhibition. There, he reported:

    "1820. Square base 2. Two specimens showing slight differences on Rev."

    Interestingly, that brief description mentioned no differences on the obverse. Since the Square Base BD-3 and BD-4 varieties share the same obverse (no other Square Base 2 obverses are shared), could it be those were the two varieties he displayed? We just do not know.

    Walter Breen documented the variety in his 1966 monograph, NEW VARIETIES OF $1, $2.50 AND $5.00 UNITED STATES GOLD (page 15):

    "1820. Mrs. Norweb reports a specimen muling my obv. 1 and rev. C. It is doubtless exceedingly rare."

    This example is indeed the former Norweb coin, plate-matched to the Norweb I catalog as lot 771, and later plated in Robert W. Miller Sr.'s reference of half eagle gold coins. It is a spectacular Select Uncirculated example, with glittering sun-gold surfaces and a razor-sharp strike. Star 1 is distant from the bust, and star 13 is close to the curl (but does not touch). A triple dentil is seen near star 9. The coin represents Bass-Dannreuther die state c/b. The 5 in the denomination sits higher than D, which tilts left.

    A few wispy hairlines are seen under magnification, yet the surfaces are refreshingly free of other abrasions or meaningful marks. Brilliant mint luster radiates from fields that display pleasing areas of reflectivity. This is assuredly one of the rarest coins in the auction and the only BD-4 example available now or in the foreseeable future. Capped Bust half eagle specialists are sure to recognize the importance of this offering and bid accordingly.
    Ex: J.C. Morgenthau Sale 366 (6/1936), lot 63; The Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987).

    Coin Index Numbers: (Variety PCGS# 519923, Base PCGS# 8125)

    Weight: 8.75 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2021
    7th-10th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 38
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,073

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
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