1828 $5 MS64 PCGS. CAC. BD-4, High R.6. Taken as a whole, the Capped Bust Left half eagles of the 1820s are probably the rarest group of coins in the U.S. federal series. Famous ultra-rarities like the 1825/4 (two examples known) and the 1822 (three known) have dominated numismatic headlines whenever a specimen was offered. The coin offered here represents a date and variety that can hold its own even in that august company, the famous, very rare 1828 BD-4 half eagle.
Mint records indicate that 28,029 Capped Bust Left half eagles were struck in 1828, with that smallish total split between four different die varieties. Two of the varieties have a perfect date, while the other two are overdates, 1828/7. The present coin displays a perfect date, and stars 1 and 13 are positioned close to the bust, identifying the BD-4 variety. The other perfect date variety of this year, the BD-3, shows the stars much further away from the bust. Experts estimate that the BD-4 variety probably accounted for more than half of the reported mintage, approximately 15,000-20,000 pieces.
John Dannreuther and PCGS both estimate the surviving population of the BD-4 at 12-15 pieces, but we can account for only nine separate examples in our roster below. PCGS and NGC have combined to certify nine coins in all grades over the years (3/13), and that total probably includes some duplication. Both services list a single specimen in MS65, but those certification events almost certainly represent the same coin. This coin is acknowledged by most experts to be the second-finest known.
The 1828 BD-4 is known in a single die state, Bass-Dannreuther Die State a/b. The crack between 5 and D in the denomination, seen on all examples of the BD-4, is easily visible on this specimen This variety was the only use of the obverse die, but the reverse was used to strike the extremely rare BD-3 variety of this date, and the 1829 Large Date variety.
This coin is a spectacular Choice example with sharply detailed design elements in most areas, although a touch of softness is apparent on the hair around Liberty's face and the eagle's wing. For some reason, this central weakness is seen on almost all examples of the 1828. The star centrils are complete, and the claws and feathers are all sharp. The attractive yellow-gold surfaces display vibrant mint luster and many areas of prooflike reflectivity, with outstanding eye appeal.
With an auction history that began at least as early as 1865, the 1828 half eagle has always been a valuable, sought-after date, even though its infrequent appearances have caused the issue to be somewhat out-of-sight, out-of-mind over the last two decades. This coin is the second-finest known example of this very rare variety. It may be decades before a comparable specimen becomes available, so the discerning early gold specialist should bid accordingly. Population: 1 in 64, 1 finer (3/13).
The following roster was expanded from earlier work by Saul Teichman, Mark Borckardt, Wayne Burt, and Karl Moulton.
Roster of 1828 BD-4 Half Eagles
1. MS65 PCGS. William Woodin, displayed at the 1914 ANS exhibition; Waldo Newcomer (plate match from the Newcomer plates); Davies-Niewoehner Collection (Paramount, 2/1975), lot 561; Auction '79 (Stack's, 7/1979), lot 817; possibly Mack Pogue.
2. MS64 PCGS. Dupont Collection; Farish Baldenhofer Collection (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 1246; Samuel Wolfson Collection (Stack's, 10/1962), lot 372; Auction '82 (Paramount, 8/1982), lot 1933; R.E. Naftzger, Jr.; Naftzger-Paramount Fixed Price List; October Sale (Superior, 10/1990), lot 2095; Michael Keston Collection (Superior, 1/1996), lot 119; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2012), lot 4679, realized $402,500. The present coin.
3. MS63 Uncertified. Davis-Graves Collection (Stack's, 4/1954), lot 1452; Clifford T. Weihman, Josiah K. Lilly, Smithsonian Institution (grade per Garrett and Guth).
4. MS62 NGC. Harlan Page Smith Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 217; John H. Clapp Collection; Louis Eliasberg; United States Gold Coin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 386; Charles Kramer Collection (Stack's/Superior, 11/1988), lot 329; Fort Lauderdale Collection (Superior, 1/2005), lot 1028.
5. MS62 PCGS. William Hesslein; John Work Garrett, purchased on 11/25/1919; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 470; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 819.
6. AU55 Prooflike Uncertified. Col. E.H.R. Green; King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 243; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 778; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation.
7. AU55 PCGS. Margene Heathgate Collection (Superior, 6/1997), lot 1492.
8. AU55 Sharpness, Repaired, Uncertified. Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 840; All the Kingdoms of the World (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1884), lot 1156; Randall Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 6/1885), lot 933; unknown intermediaries; William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1645; Amon G. Carter, Jr. Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 663; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/1999), lot 5700; Smith and Youngman Collections (Bowers and Merena, 3/2003), lot 2272; 68th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 2112. This coin is traceable through its early appearances by the presence of the initials G.W. and the date 1806 inscribed in the fields, mentioned in the descriptions. After the Carter sale, the initials were removed, but the coin is still recognizable.
9. XF Sharpness, Repaired, Uncertified. Joel Rettew; Rare Coin Review 26; Auction '79 (Rarcoa, 7/1979), lot 1234; Dr. Jon Kardatzke Collection (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 6/2000), lot 1314.
Roster of 1828 BD-3 Half Eagles
1. PR67 Uncertified. Mint Cabinet, Smithsonian Institution, grade per Garrett and Guth.
2. AU55 Prooflike Uncertified. David S. Wilson Collection (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 78; William Forrester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2101; J.F. Bell Collection (Rarcoa, 4/1963), lot 605; Public Auction Sale (Kreisberg-Schulman, 4/1967), lot 775; Auction '81 (Rarcoa, 7/1981), lot 442; Bryan Sale (Paramount, 1/1982), lot 813; Auction '88 (Akers, 7/1988), lot 904; NCI, purchased by Harry Bass on 5/23/1989; Harry W. Bass Research Foundation.
Earlier Appearances Not Attributed by Die Variety
A. Sixth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1865), lot 2779, realized $52.50 to John F. McCoy.
B. A specimen exhibited to the Boston Numismatic Society on February 4, 1869 by George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 483; Parmelee Collection of Coins (Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 788, realized $18. Parmelee purchased the Seavey Collection intact before the date of the intended sale. After he integrated Seavey's collection with his own, he sold many duplicates in Strobridge's sale of 6/1873.
C. Mendes I. Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 148, realized $13.50 to John W. Haseltine.
D. Henry Adams Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1876), lot 1301, realized $10.50.
E. Phineas Adams; William J. Jenks; Sixty-Ninth Sale (John W. Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 362.
F. Foster Ely Sale (Scott Stamp & Coin, 11/1888), lot 41.
G. James Ten Eyck Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), lot 193, realized $680.
H. Steinberg-Nicholson Collections (J.C. Morgenthau, 4/1933), lot 80.
I. William S. Hunt Collection (Morgenthau, 10/1940), lot 31, possibly the same as H above.
J. Col. James W. Flanagan Collection (Stack's, 3/1944), lot 1104, realized $925 to J.F. Bell; J.F. Bell Collection (Stack's, 12/1944), lot 350, realized $1,000.
K. Adolphe Menjou Collection Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 1472, realized $1,402.
L. 1946 Hollinbeck Coin Company Fixed Price List #28. Graded Uncirculated by the cataloger.
M. Possibly Louis Eliasberg; H.R. Lee Collection (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1248.
N. Jerome Kern; Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 360.
O. Texas Sale (Hollinbeck Coin Company, 12/1951), lot 1828.
P. Lichtenfels/Linder Collections (Kreisberg-Schulman, 2/1961), lot 1171
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