1840-O Broad Mill Five Dollar, MS61
    The Only Uncirculated Coin Certified

    1840-O $5 Broad Mill MS61 NGC. Broad Mill half eagles are perhaps one of the most under-researched areas in U.S. gold coinage. The first widely distributed information about them was published 45 years ago in Walter Breen's Hewitt monograph series on gold coins. In his booklet Varieties of United States Half Eagles 1839-1929, he wrote at length about these pieces:

    "Mintage commonly quoted as 30,400. The true figure seems to be 40,120. This includes some 4,620 Broad Mill coins struck from the first dies (January through March 1840) plus 35,500 Narrow Mill coins struck between August 1840 and February 1841 inclusive. This particular division may seem arbitrary but it is completely documented in the Archives. Deliveries:
    Jan. .... 1,420 Nov. .... 14,000
    Feb. .... 3,000 Dec. .... 5,200
    March ... 200 Jan '41 .. 6,300
    Aug. .... 8,000 Feb. .... 2,000
    The first pair of dies was furnished on Jan. 21, 1840, and they were used for the Broad Mill coins, as the error had not yet been discovered at the Philadelphia Mint. Broad Mill coins exist and are quite rare. The second pair of dies was not sent until May 29. These dies were used for the remaining coinage. ... These dies were not destroyed until Feb. 27, 1841, one reverse being left over. The obverse die of 1840, sent Dec. 21, 1840, was not put into use until the following August."

    The next appearance of information about these pieces occurred in 1987 and 1988. Breen mentioned them in his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia (page 531) but incorrectly listed them as 22.5 mm in diameter. In the October 1987 Norweb I catalog, Michael Hodder wrote "An Essay on Coin Diameters." Hodder used the coins in Norweb as a starting point for research on this intriguing subject, but left several questions unanswered for future researchers. What he discovered from measurement of half eagles from 1839 through 1847 is that there are actually three diameter ranges. He stated:

    "The measurements can be classified into two categories among the earlier pieces on the list, the so-called 'Narrow Mill' coins, measuring 21.7 mm. or 21.8 mm. When we arrive at 1844-O, the first New Orleans Mint half eagle in the collection (New Orleans Mint issues of 1840-O, 1842-O and 1843-O are not in the collection), we come to a 'new' diameter of 21.9 mm., which we shall call the 'Medium Mill.' ... New Orleans Mint coins studied are from different diameter collars producing 21.9 mm. 'Medium Mill' coins."

    With the new NGC holders it is now possible to exactly measure the diameter of a coin even though it is encased. This piece measures 21.9 mm, just as Hodder predicted 21 years ago. The coin is noticeably wider than the Narrow Mill variant, and this is especially noticeable with its wider rims. To date (1/09) this is the only Uncirculated Broad Mill 1840-O five certified by NGC (PCGS does not certify this variant). Only eight others have been graded. When encountered such pieces are usually in much lower grades, most often XF40-45, rarely in AU.
    Unlike most 1840-O half eagles, this piece is only minimally abraded. In fact, there are no singularly mentionable marks on either side. This is worthy of note as Doug Winter remarked in his latest O-mint reference: "This date is nearly always seen with very heavily abraded surfaces." Another remarkable feature on this piece is the strength of strike. Again, using Winter as a reference, he notes that Broad Mill pieces are usually weakly struck. Light reddish patina is seen over each side of this otherwise green-gold example.
    In theory, a case can be made that this is the rarest New Orleans half eagle. Only nine pieces have been certified, and this is the finest. Specialists will surely take note of this special coin. The question that will undoubtedly go through collectors' minds is, "When will another Broad Mill 1840-O five be available in Uncirculated?"(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 25SK, PCGS# 8200)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

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