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    1875 Five Dollar, AU50
    Only 200 Pieces Produced for Circulation
    The Eighth Example Known

    1875 $5 AU50 NGC. Most memorable key dates in American numismatics are better described as demand rarities rather than rarities in the absolute sense. That is to say that a shortage of supply relative to demand stimulates interest and drives prices. These include a number of first-year issues, dramatic varieties, lower-mintage dates, etc. Other important issues qualify as Mint "delicacies" or patterns rather than actual coins intended for commerce. While these are undoubtedly rare, they were struck as presentation pieces or prototypes to be saved, not as mediums of exchange to be used. Few issues actually struck and issued for circulation are genuinely rare. The 1875 half eagle is in that distinguished class.

    With only 200 business strikes manufactured, the 1875 enjoys the second lowest regular-issue mintage for any United States coin, regardless of denomination, after its 1875 ten dollar cousin (100 coins). One wonders why any were struck at all. Gold was unseen in the channels of commerce after the Civil War; there was no need for these coins in domestic circulation. All 200 1875 five dollar gold coins were struck on December 18 -- the same day 100 eagles, 400 quarter eagles, and 400 gold dollars were produced. It is possible that all of those coins, totaling $3,400 in face value, were struck at the specific request of a depositor, who would have been required to pay a premium in silver or greenbacks to obtain them. The coins would have been exported abroad to Europe, Canada, or Latin America as payment, and probably melted upon receipt, explaining the ultra-low survival rates for each of those issues. It may also be the case that the Mint struck small batches of each denomination (except the three dollar) to have on hand in case such coins were wanted as gifts toward the end of the year. Q. David Bowers has suggested that the 400 gold dollars may have been made "for the numismatic market." Perhaps the same is true of the eagle and half eagle, although higher survival rates would be expected.

    With the recent discovery of this About Uncirculated representative, we are now able to positively trace eight distinct examples of the 1875 half eagle. Predictably, they all fall within in a tight grade range of XF40 to AU58. These few survivors avoided melting and probably exchanged hands a few times before being set aside. All 1875 five dollar circulation strikes are distinguished from their proof counterparts by the placement of the digits in the date. The numerals are closer to the dentils on the eight known commercial coins, whereas proofs show the date positioned higher.

    This landmark rarity compares favorably to the other known examples despite faint hairlines from an old cleaning. It undoubtedly ranks among the sharpest coins, with crisp centers and radials on the stars, and virtually complete detail on the curls and on the eagle. Most other 1875 half eagles lack definition over the ear, breast feathers, and fletchings. The partially lustrous surfaces feature rich yellow-gold color without much field reflectivity. Both sides show scattered marks, as do the other fives on the roster below. Abrasions between stars 1 and 2, and on the cheek will identify this coin in future appearances. It is not often that a collector gets the opportunity to add a coin of this magnitude to his or her collection. An advanced specialist should take advantage of this series of events, which has brought to market one of the most elusive rarities in all of United States coinage.

    Roster of 1875 Half Eagles
    1. AU58 PCGS. Cornerstone Sale (MARCA, 8/1991), lot 732, as XF45 NGC, realized $40,700; Long Beach Bullet Sale (Heritage, 2/1993), lot 557, as AU50 PCGS, realized $66,000; Tower Hill Collection (Bowers and Merena, 9/1993), lot 1605, not sold; Richmond Collection, Part I (David Lawrence Rare Coins, 7/2004), as AU55 NGC, realized $86,250; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2014), lot 5752, realized $211,500. Photographed on PCGS CoinFacts as AU58 PCGS.
    2. AU55 PCGS. Auction '87 (Paramount, 7/1987), lot 430, realized $35,750; Diocese of Buffalo; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 6/1997), lot 5439, as XF45 uncertified, realized $40,250; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 10/2001), lot 8278, as AU53 NGC, realized $25,300; D.L. Hansen Collection.
    3. AU53 PCGS. Possibly the Samuel Wolfson Collection, Part I (Stack's, 10/1962), lot 511, realized $950; ANA Convention Auction (Paramount, 8/1974), lot 884, realized $60,000; Ancient, Foreign and United States Coins (Sotheby's, 12/1994), lot 742, realized $44,000; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2006), lot 3491, as AU50 PCGS, realized $46,000; R.M. Smythe & Co.; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg Auctions, 2/2007), lot 2335, realized $74,750; Kupersmith Collection (Stack's Bowers, 11/2010), lot 5043, as AU55 NGC, realized $149,500.
    4. AU53 PCGS. CAC. Offered by Harry Laibstain (2012) for $250,000; offered by Stack's Bowers in 10/2013 for $250,000; Baltimore Auction (Stack's Bowers, 6/2014), lot 2534, unsold; Rarities Night (Stack's Bowers, 3/2017), lot 3113, unsold. Photographed on PCGS CoinFacts as AU53 PCGS.
    5. AU53 PCGS. Paul Wittlin discovered this coin in Europe; Harry Bass, purchased from Paramount on October 28, 1968; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 1200; Bass, Part IV (Bowers and Merena, 11/2000), lot 526, realized $36,650.
    6. AU50 PCGS. David B. Silberman Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 6348, as XF45 uncertified, realized $35,200; Diocese of Buffalo; ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/1997), lot 5384, as XF45 uncertified, realized $43,125; Tony Terranova; ANA Midwinter Signature (Heritage, 3/1999), lot 6676, unsold; Stanley Kesselman; Lone Star Collection (Stack's, 9/1999), lot 1213, realized $51,750.
    7. AU50 NGC. Discovered in Canada, March 2019; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2019), lot 3877 (as Cleaned -- AU Details NGC), realized $120,000. The present coin.
    8. XF40 PCGS. GNA Sale (MARCA, 5/1992), lot 1641, as XF40 uncertified, realized $34,500; Dr. Jon Kardatzke Collection (Goldberg Auctions, 6/2000), lot 1350, as XF40 PCGS, realized $46,000; Pre-Long Beach Sale (Goldberg Auctions, 9/2003), lot 1150, realized $34,500.

    Additional Appearance
    A. Very Fine. World's Finest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 429, realized $200.(Registry values: P3)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 25WT, PCGS# 8336)

    Weight: 8.36 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2021
    20th-24th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 527

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