Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1894-S Half Eagle, MS69
    Ex: Clapp-Eliasberg

    1894-S $5 MS69 NGC. As of (11/13), there are six Liberty Coronet half eagles that have been awarded the MS69 grade, a point shy of perfect, by NGC or PCGS. They are split between the services, three each, and all were struck at San Francisco. Of the six, this is the earliest by year of issue and time of certification alike.

    It has impressed collectors virtually from the day it was struck. In the catalog for The United States Gold Coin Collection (the U.S. gold pieces of Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.), the cataloger ascribes its origins in John H. Clapp's collection, bought in its entirety by Eliasberg in 1942, and gives its prior origin as the San Francisco Mint, "November 1894, at face value; obviously a specially selected coin."

    Earlier in the description, after an evaluation of the coin as "Gem Brilliant Uncirculated, MS-67," come these words: "To say that this is the finest known specimen might be a dangerous thing to do, but the present writer can say with certainty that he has never seen or heard of a finer one and that it would be difficult to envision even in theory what a finer one would look like." The combined certified population, in which a single MS65 NGC example plays second fiddle to this superstar coin, confirms the U.S. Gold/Eliasberg cataloger's ventured statement.

    Among those enamored of this singularly beautiful 1894-S half eagle was David W. Akers. Its next auction appearance was in the Akers section of Auction '88 and he had this to say:

    "When this cataloguer attended the famous Eliasberg Sale in 1982 and viewed all the lots, I felt that this 1894-S Half Eagle was the single highest quality coin in the entire sale... I considered it (and I still do) perhaps the finest business strike gold coin of the 19th Century I had ever seen and I wanted it for my own collection sooo [sic] badly. But so did Marty Haber and we battled, bid for bid, all the way up to the seemingly 'unconscionable' price of $19,800 for the coin, with Mr. Haber the winning bidder. As the bidding will show conclusively when this coin sells now in 1988, that price was an incredible bargain."

    Mr. Akers proved correct, as the coin sold for a then-staggering $115,500. Yet just two years later, when Akers handled the coin again, it fetched more than double that sum. What had changed? Three letters: N-G-C. Wrote Akers, after mentioning the coin's 1988 offering: "Since that sale, it has been 'slabbed' MS-69 by NGC and is the one and only U.S. gold coin of any date or denomination that has been so graded by NGC."

    Time, of course, has changed the truth of that particular statement, yet in the context of its issue the coin remains a nonpareil. Only a spot of obverse planchet roughness between stars 4 and 5, as-struck and thus not grade-defining, serves as a pedigree marker of any real use. The all-around quality of the light honey-gold surfaces, cartwheel-swirling with just the right touch of satin to the fields, lends this coin incomparable eye appeal. Still certified in the "old-school" NGC holder with external hologram. Whether you are a collector by type or series, if any gold Liberty half eagle at all interests you, this should be one.

    Ex: Acquired directly from the United States Mint at San Francisco, November 1894, face value; John H. Clapp Collection; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; The United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers & Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 589; Marty Haber; Auction '88 (Akers, 7/1988), lot 845; Auction '90 (Akers, 8/1990), lot 1905, which realized $264,000; eBay (closed 2/1999).(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 25YG, PCGS# 8389)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2014
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,377

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 4 days left to consign to the 2020 January 8 - 13 FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Orlando !

    Learn about consigning with us

    The results exceeded our expectations by approximately 50%, and we are so happy that we went with Heritage Auction for the sale of the coins.
    H. Walter K.,
    Barnstable, MA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 October 17-24 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 October 17-24 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $7,412,570
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach
    REALIZED $5,898,481
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World Paper Money Signature Auction - Long Beach
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World Paper Money Signature Auction - Long Beach
    REALIZED $1,866,390