1832 Half Eagle, 13 Stars, BD-1, High R.5
    MS63, Only Three Finer at PCGS

    1832 $5 13 Stars MS63 PCGS. Breen-6495, BD-1, High R.5. The 1832 half eagle is known in only two die pairings, BD-1 and BD-2, easily distinguished by the presence of either 13 or 12 obverse stars, respectively. In addition, the 12 Stars BD-2 has a curved-base 2, while the 13 Stars BD-1 has a straight-base 2. Both are listed as separate Guide Book varieties. These two obverse dies were each paired with but a single reverse die, which on the 13 Stars is recorded with only a single die state. The reverse of the 12 Stars variety shows a later state of the 13 Stars reverse, with some of the letters weak and the eagle's claws more open due to die lapping. Bass-Dannreuther notes that Miller's half eagle reference erroneously lists four die pairings for the 1832, including two with the 1830 Small D (BD-2) reverse. All 1832 pieces known, however, including the present coin, show the Large D reverse, with the letter large and the period distant.
    The 1832 BD-2 12 Stars is much rarer, with a High R.7 rarity rating according to Bass-Dannreuther. The Guide Book notes that only five examples of BD-2 are known, while Bass-Dannreuther says "five or six." This is certainly not to be interpreted, however, that the BD-1 is common, for its High R.5 rating makes it "rare to very rare" in adjectival terms--this in what is among the most difficult U.S. coin series, gold or otherwise. Bass-Dannreuther comments concerning the rarity of this variety:

    "Bass owned a single example of this available variety--at least available for this type. There are as many as 50 examples surviving. This may seem high to some specialists, but quite a few of these coins have been brought to market because of higher prices in the past 25 years. This is still not a common coin, of course, and all Fat Head Fives are popular and snapped up by savvy collectors at auction and on the bourse floor. For some reason, half eagles of the 1830s are often seen with extensive evidence of handling, unlike most of the dates of the 1820s."

    Harry Bass, of course, with his vast resources, could have owned a dozen pieces of the BD-1 if he had so desired, given enough time for searching, and there are many rarer varieties of which he owned multiple examples. For the always-analytical John Dannreuther, that last sentence in the quotation seems a bit of a curiosity, one that is easily explained. It was only two years later, in 1834, that the bullion content of the early gold coins exceeded their face value. The old-tenor gold began to go by the thousands into melting pots--usually by way of bullion dealers and other mercenaries who snapped up the choicest pieces from circulation. A coin only two to four years old (i.e., dated in the 1830s) found in such a bullion shipment destined for melting would likely show handling marks, but it is likely that the gold coins from the 1820s had already been saved in strong collector hands, and thus were less likely to be submitted as melt bullion.
    At PCGS this piece is one of only three coins certified MS63, with three finer (all MS64). Together with three pieces in MS62, this makes a total of nine Mint State pieces at PCGS. NGC lists 12 Mint State coins, ranging from MS61 through a single MS65 (5/08). The present example has lovely, satinlike surfaces that are undisturbed by any noticeable abrasions. Striking definition is complete on each side, which is not always a given since these pieces were struck with a screw press. The orange-gold centers show just the slightest bit of golden-rose around the margins. An important rarity for the 19th century gold specialist.
    From The Charleston Collection.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# BFYG, PCGS# 8156)

    Weight: 8.75 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

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

    View all of [The Charleston Collection ]

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