Select Small Date 1842-C Five Dollar
1842-C $5 Small Date MS63 NGC. CAC. Sole die pair for the
year, in Die State I, the perfect obverse without rim cud at the
top of the obverse. The Winter Third Edition plate coin. In
Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint, Doug Winter has little but
praise for the 1842-C Small Date half eagles, at least as far as
their rarity is concerned. He suggests that they were struck before
their Large Date counterparts (noting that the 1841-C half eagles
have a date more Small than Large), and offers these words about
their rarity and importance: "The 1842-C Small Date is the rarest
Charlotte half eagle. It is also the second rarest Charlotte coin,
trailing only the excessively rare 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar.
This variety has long been considered a full-fledged member of the
Charlotte half eagle series and no date set is truly complete
without an example."
Winter's Third Edition Plate Coin
Out of 27,432 total 1842-C half eagles, Winter suggests a mintage of only 4,595 pieces from Small Date dies, and further subdivides the Small Date coins into two die states; he suggests that Die State I, the "perfect obverse," "probably represents the first 2,555 pieces that were produced on March 22, 1842." This would appear to conflict with Winter's next statement about Die State II with obverse cud, that "approximately three-quarters of all the known [Small Date] examples are from this state of the dies." Either one of Winter's population estimates is off, or the coins struck earlier disproportionately bore the brunt of circulation attrition; the latter certainly is plausible.
In any event, the best collection of Charlotte gold, must include an example of the 1842-C Small Date half eagle, and it demands one of the best-preserved survivors. Winter's third edition of the Charlotte reference, with information up to June 2008, suggested that this coin was the finest 1842-C Small Date five available and surmised that the sole MS63 coin in NGC's Census Report was actually this coin; a quick comparison between the January 2005 Heritage images and the coin picks up on several obvious pedigree markers, particularly the flaw above the vertical stroke in the 4 in the date, and confirms the surmise.
This remains the only NGC-certified 1842-C Small Date half eagle in MS63 or better, and the only serious rival to this coin's status as the premier 1842-C Small Date half eagle is a single PCGS MS63+ Secure example (11/11); no MS63 PCGS coins appeared in the Population Report until 2009, and the Plus Secure designation, which was not introduced by PCGS until 2010, points to a recent grade change. It is uncertain whether the MS63+ Secure PCGS example corresponds to any of the other entries in Winter's census of Uncirculated examples from 2008, all rated MS62 or less; if so, it would suggest that he rated the present coin circa 2005 over the MS63+ Secure example. In the absence of such confirmation, though, each collector trying to identify the "finest example" must weigh a PCGS Plus Secure MS63 against an NGC MS63 with CAC green label.
It would be hard to go wrong owning either coin, and certainly this example is a beauty. Like many of the early-state Small Date coins, it is sharply struck, even on the locks below the ERT of LIBERTY, a place Winter flags as a trouble-spot. A mint-made planchet flaw above the 4 in the date, the aforementioned pedigree marker, is common to this date and does not affect the technical grade, though several long, wispy abrasions in the left obverse field have an influence. The luster on each side is flashy and radiant, less overtly orange than the Winter plate would suggest but with clear hints of that color. A coin of great historic importance.(Registry values: P8) (NGC ID# 25SV, PCGS# 8208)
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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