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    Description

    1829 Capped Head Half Eagle, AU Details
    Very Rare Small Diameter, BD-2 Variety
    Nine Examples Traced, Ex: Stickney/Brand

    1829 $5 Small Diameter, Small Date, BD-2, R.7 -- Improperly Cleaned -- NGC Details. AU. Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/a. Half eagles were struck with a close collar for the first time in 1829, as production switched over from the old open collar technology part way through the year. The resulting coins had a smaller, more exact diameter than the open collar issues, as the collar confined the planchets and imparted the edge reeding as the metal tried to expand under pressure from the dies during striking. Of course, the close collar coins were thicker than their open collar predecessors, as the specifications for weight and composition remained the same. Since they contained the same amount of gold, their intrinsic value continued to be significantly greater than their face value, and the close collar coins were almost all hoarded, exported, or melted as soon as they were issued, much like their open collar counterparts.

    Mint records indicate 57,442 half eagles were produced in 1829, split between the two types, but few examples of either issue are known today. PCGS CoinFacts estimates 8-9 examples of the 1829 Small Diameter Capped Head half eagle are extant in all grades. In lot 4682 of our January 2012 FUN Platinum Night Signature catalog we compiled a roster of nine coins known to us, a figure that corresponds well with the PCGS estimate. Three of those specimens are included in institutional collections, two in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and one in the Harry Bass Foundation. One of the NNC coins and the specimen in the Bass Foundation are reportedly proofs. PCGS and NGC have combined to certify a total of six coins, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (7/17).

    The present coin has an illustrious pedigree dating back to pioneering collector Matthew Stickney. Stickney was one of the first systematic collectors of U.S. coins by date and design type, and he probably obtained this piece in his most active collecting period, before 1854. In 1907, long after his death, his collection was sold by his daughters through prominent Philadelphia dealer Henry Chapman. Chapman described this coin as:

    "1829 Small date. Small letters on reverse. The edge beaded instead of deep surratures as in previous years. The whole coin smaller and being the size of the succeeding five years. Extremely fine. Of excessive rarity, probably about five known. See plate. One in the Smith collection sold for $210."



    Chapman astutely described the physical appearance of this close collar coin, noting the smaller numeral and letter punches used to impress the date and legends on the dies, and the smaller diameter planchets. He also mentioned the new beaded borders, as opposed to the old cigar-shaped dentils on the open collar issues. The lot realized an impressive $360, to super collector Virgil Brand. The current record price realized for the issue is a staggering $881,250, brought by the MS65+ PCGS example in the Pogue Collection, Part IV sale in May of 2016.

    The coin offered here is a handsome example of this classic gold rarity, with strongly impressed design elements that show just a trace of actual wear. Intricate detail remains evident on Liberty's hair strands and the eagle's feathers. The pleasing orange-gold surfaces show only minor signs of contact, with a few insignificant rim dings at 12 and 3 o'clock on the obverse. The luster is somewhat dimmed by the noted cleaning, but the overall presentation is most attractive. With only six coins available to collectors, it may be years before a comparable specimen of this rare early gold issue is publicly offered, once this lot has passed. Series specialists should bid accordingly.
    Ex: Matthew Adams Stickney; Stickney Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1907), lot 671; Virgil Brand, Brand Journal number 39044; Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 1953; 1963 FUN (Federal Brand Enterprises, 1/1963), lot 4187, the cataloger of this sale believed the coin in this lot was from the Dunham Collection, but the plate matches the Stickney/Melish plates; NASC Convention (RARCOA, 2/1972), lot 871; Kingswood Coin Auctions (2/1997), lot 119; the present consignor.


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

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    Auction Dates
    September, 2017
    7th-10th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 25
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