half eagle gold coin

NGC Certifies One of Just Four Known 1854-S Half Eagles

April 28th, 2018 by

The numismatic community is abuzz with the news of one of the rarest gold coin discoveries in American history.

Mom Always Said Don’t Accept Any Wooden Nickels

There are an untold number of cases where someone believed they had come into possession of a truly rare coin—only to find that it was merely a forgery.

Far fewer cases involve the opposite scenario.

Last week, news surfaced of another extant 1854-S half eagle. Only three had been known to exist.

One of these three coins resides at a museum in the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection. Another was stolen by armed robbers in the 1960s and has never been recovered.

half eagle gold coin

Gold half eagle minted in Philadelphia. Photo via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

The half eagle is a $5 coin denomination that was last produced in 1929.

A paltry 268 of these half-eagle gold coins were originally minted in San Francisco in 1854. This was the first year the new branch mint was in operation thanks to the California Gold Rush five years earlier.

Unsurprisingly, many numismatists who encountered this fourth known 1854-S half eagle reflexively assumed it must be fake.

Certifying the “Discovery of a Lifetime”

You can hardly blame the skeptics. Counterfeiters frequently target exceptionally rare coins in hopes of scoring one big payoff.

Despite repeatedly being told that his coin was simply a fake, the anonymous owner received a thrill from one of the leading third-party grading companies, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

Not only was the coin certified as genuine, but it also received the solid grade of XF-45.

Liberty $5 half eagle obverse

Obverse of another Liberty $5 half eagle

The NGC label even includes the phrase “Discovery of a Lifetime,” a quote from the company’s chairman, in honor of how rare and surprising this find was.

According to Coin World and other sources, the owner of the coin is from New England. He has chosen not to disclose how he came into possession of the coin.

Luckily, photographic comparisons confirm that this new example is not the same 1854-S half eagle that was stolen in 1967.

Careful comparative photography also helped NGC’s experts verify the coin’s authenticity.

Estimates of the coin’s value at auction exceed $1 million. It remains to be seen if the owner will decide to sell.

 

The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.

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