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    Description

    1833 Small Date Half Eagle, MS61
    Extremely Rare BD-3 Variety
    Possibly Unique in Private Hands, Ex: Norweb
    First Known Auction Appearance in More Than Two Decades

    1833 $5 Small Date, BD-3, High R.7, MS61 PCGS. Bass-Dannreuther Die State b/b. BD-3 is by far the rarest of the three 1833 half eagle varieties; in fact, it is among the rarest die pairings of any early half eagle issue. It shares its obverse die with BD-2, the other Small Date (or, more accurately, Close Date) die pairing, although the reverse, which distinctively features the period in the denomination close to the D rather than distant, is unique to the BD-3 marriage. Only one die state is documented, showing a light peripheral crack through OF, the wing tip, and the AM in AMERICA. An earlier, uncracked die state likely existed at one time since this is the only use of the reverse die, but it was probably eradicated by the vast private gold melts of the 1830s that decimated the survival of the 1833 half eagle overall.

    Concerning the BD-3 die marriage, John Dannreuther writes in Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties:

    "Some numismatists have suggested that fewer than one-half dozen coins exist of this variety, and the author concurs. Perhaps a few more coins are extant, but the number known is unlikely to exceed seven or eight."



    This survival estimate has been largely unwavering since Walter Breen published his monograph on early half eagles in 1966, wherein he called BD-3 (Breen I-1) a High R.7 variety. The Bass-Dannreuther reference (2006) retains that rarity factor, suggesting that three to five pieces are known. However, we believe that BD-3 is slightly rarer still, bordering on an R.8 ranking.

    Since the early 1990s, we have handled 15 1833 half eagles, of which 12 were BD-1 and three were BD-2, with no BD-3 representation. In fact, the final 1833 die marriage is not known to have appeared at auction at all in more than two decades. A more extensive study of auction data reveals that, in the past half century, only two separate BD-3 representatives have been publicly documented. One is pedigreed to the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection and is permanently housed in the Bass Core Collection at the ANA Money Museum. The other, last seen in a 1994 Stack's sale, is from the Norweb Collection, and is the piece offered here.

    The present coin's pedigree has been traced back to a 1953 Hollinbeck sale, but the earliest confirmed documentation of the Bass coin is only in 1973, when Bass acquired it from Numismatics, Ltd. Efforts to locate additional representation of the variety in old auction catalogs have yielded little data. BD-3 coins were plated in two early Chapman sales, including S.H. Chapman's 1907 auction of the David S. Wilson Collection and Henry Chapman's 1912 offering of the George H. Earle Collection, as well as later in A. Kosoff's 1962 "Illustrated History" catalog of the Judd Collection. However, in each case, the quality of the plate was insufficient to positively match the coin to a known specimen today. Going by strike, each plate shows a coin that appears too sharp to be the Norweb specimen, although it remains possible that all three were earlier appearances of the Bass coin. If so, then it is unlikely that more than two BD-3 specimens exist.

    "Colonel" E.H.R. Green at one point had a staggering seven 1833 half eagles, but their varieties are unknown. Waldo Newcomer's collection contained only BD-1 and -2 coins, and the piece in the Farouk sale was a BD-1 proof. The John Story Jenks Collection, auctioned by Henry Chapman in 1921, contained a Small Date 1833, but as only the obverse was plated, it is not known if the piece was a BD-2 or BD-3. In his 1966 monograph, Breen listed William Woodin's 1914 ANS exhibit coin as a BD-3, but it was actually a BD-2. The Smithsonian's 1833 half eagle is a BD-2, and the permanent ANS coin is a BD-1.

    In our estimation, available data reveals the capacity for there to be as many as three or four BD-3 representatives extant. However, if examples do survive in addition to the Bass and Norweb specimens, they have been tightly held off of the auction market for at least half of a century. We would not be surprised if future research is able to prove that only two representatives are known.

    Both the Bass and Norweb coins exhibit moderate strike weakness on the hair curl in front of Liberty's ear and on the eagle's left (facing) wing, although the Norweb specimen more so. This piece is straw-gold with semiprooflike fields that transition to delicate luster amid the peripheral stars and legends. The surfaces are largely devoid of singular abrasions, showing mainly light lines in the fields that limit the grade. However, a small mark in front of Liberty's forehead and another next to the eagle's neck below the M in UNUM serve as reliable pedigree markers.

    Among 1833 half eagles of any variety, this coin would be an attractive, high-end piece. Add in the extreme rarity of the BD-3 die pairing, and this piece becomes one of the most important coins in this year's Central States auction. We anticipate intense collector interest as this coin makes its first auction appearance in more than two decades. Population (both Small Date varieties): 2 in 61, 6 finer (2/17).

    Roster of 1833 BD-3 Half Eagles
    1. MS61 PCGS. Auction Sale (Hollinbeck Coin Company, 3/1953), lot 645D; The Norweb Collection, Part I (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 783; Four Landmark Collections (Bowers and Merena, 3/1989), lot 620; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 5/1994), lot 661. The present coin.
    2. Ungraded. Purchased from Numismatics, Ltd., (6/9/1973); Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation; ANA Money Museum. Bass Sylloge 3162.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Uncirculated. David S. Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 83, realized $40.00.
    B. Ungraded. George H. Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2404, realized $57.50.
    C. Uncirculated. J. Hewitt Judd; Illustrated History United States Coins (Kosoff, 1962), lot 85.
    From The Hutchinson Collection, Part II. (Variety PCGS# 519954, Base PCGS# 8158)


    View all of [The Hutchinson Collection, Part II ]

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