Elusive and Attractive 1831 Half Eagle

    1831 $5 Small 5D. MS61 NGC. Ex: Garrett Collection. Breen-6493, B. 1-A, R.6. All of the coins from the short-lived Kneass design are very rare. This design evolved from John Reich's Capped Bust Left design which was one of his first major design revisions upon joining the Philadelphia Mint in 1807. Liberty's head was again modified in 1813, with dies engraved by John Reich (1813-1815) which show his usual notched star signature on the final star right of the date. Reich left the Mint in 1817 after a decade of service without a pay raise. The old reliable engraver, Robert Scot copied Reich's obverse device punch of Liberty, but the result was not as artfully rendered, Liberty's cap shows more wrinkling, and her hair is coarser. The Scot design continued in use until 1829 when William Kneass again modified the central device, giving Liberty a more finished and graceful appearance. This new Kneass design was issued from 1829 until 1834.
    During the years from 1813 to 1834 the price of gold bullion exceeded the face value of these half eagles. Therefore widespread melting of this type was common. In many cases only a handful of coins remain despite what would otherwise appear to be generous mintages. Such is the case with this date, perhaps 20-30 are known from the original mintage of 140,594. In 1834 the amount of gold was reduced in each half eagle, and the melting immediately became unprofitable, and hence a far greater number of coins exist after the 1834 design modifications and reduced gold content allowed far greater numbers to survive.
    This is a pleasing Mint State example with faint greenish tints over brilliant yellow gold surfaces. The fields are lightly reflective. A few faint hairlines and other tiny abrasions keep this from a higher and even more desirable grade. NGC has graded only 10 examples, most in high circulated or Mint state grades. In particular we note this is the fifth best seen by NGC, with four seen finer. These population totals do not account for possibly resubmissions. We would be surprised to learn that even as many as 30 examples of this variety are known in all grades.
    Ex: Garrett Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/79), lot 474; purchased from Abner Kreisberg Corporation on January 18, 1980 for $19,500.
    From The Beverly Hills Collection.(#8153) (Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 25RD, PCGS# 8153)

    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 Dates
    February, 2005
    23rd-26th Wednesday-Saturday
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