PCGS 1876 MS 65. The study and pursuit of coins is a fascinating subject, and sometimes the stories behind the coins we handle can be just as intriguing as the coins themselves. To date, the story of this coin has two chapters. The first part is its sale in 1968 as a part of the legendary Miles Collection (Stack's, 10/68). The coin was lot 499 of that sale where it was described as: "Superbly struck, with full mint bloom, and proof-like. Probably the first coin struck from the dies. Unquestionably the "finest known." Each star, letter, and general design is so well defined that one would think it was a Proof. Wolfson had a Proof of this date, but we feel that an Uncirculated coin such as this is far rarer than a Proof. Though the Guidebook lists this coin in Uncirculated at $550 we feel that it will probably realize close to the Proof price of $1,000.00. Must be seen to be appreciated." Their estimate was on the money, and the coin did indeed bring $1,000. The purchase of such a high grade business strike for a price that was comparable to that of a proof shows remarkable prescience on the part of the new owner (and present consignor). The pursuit of finest known gold coins was certainly an underdeveloped area in U.S. numismatics in 1968. The only collectors that readily come to mind who actively pursued such coins were John Murrell, Harry Bass, and Ms. Norweb.
The second part of this coin's story picks up 26 years later at the ANA Early Spring Convention in New Orleans. An elderly man offered a large group of U.S. coins to Heritage for outright sale. He spoke with Heritage's principal buyer, Jim Halperin, and quoted him individual prices. The gentleman had a Panama-Pacific set he wanted $70,000 for, but Jim told him the set was worth closer to $35-$45,000. He also offered to Jim the present 1876 half eagle for $5,000, and Jim informed him that this coin was worth far more than his quoted price, and under the right set of circumstances could bring as much as $40,000! After several other haphazard price quotes, Jim suggested that rather than sell parts of his collection too cheaply and being left with the balance, he should consider consigning everything to the summer ANA sale. Many of the coins in this sale were submitted to the grading services by Heritage on behalf of the consignor. One of the results is the coin offered here.
Only 1,432 business strikes were produced in this centennial year, the lowest production of any With Motto five. Naturally, any coin of this issue is rare, regardless of condition, and this piece is unquestionably the finest known example. It is unrivaled in condition for this year and, is also the earliest dated With Motto half eagle certified by PCGS in gem condition. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that this is one of the finest preserved coins from the earlier years of the With Motto series. It is extremely unlikely that another specimen could approach the condition of this piece as nothing has turned up in public auction or at the grading services since this piece was last sold in 1968.
The typical 1876 half eagle has prooflike surfaces. On this coin the fields have a pleasing glimmer, a mild semi-prooflikeness, with much cartwheel luster intermixed. The strike is well brought up but not completely full on the highpoints of the design. The most noticeable marks that could serve as identifiers for pedigree purposes are: a luster scrape between stars 1 and 2, and another faint field mark out from stars 3 and 4. There are also three faint alloy spots on the obverse, one in the hair curls in front of Liberty's ear and two on the neck. Another can be seen at the top of OF on the reverse (this second one plainly shows in the photograph in the Miles catalog).
An outstanding piece of rare date U.S. gold that is certain to generate much interest at this historic sale. (NGC ID# 25WW, PCGS# 8339)
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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