Coin of the Week: 1838-D Classic Head Half Eagle

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By Antoinette Rahn

This marks the beginning of an exciting weekly blog post for COINage, in partnership with Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Welcome to the first official Coin of the Week blog post, sponsored by PCGS.

Each week we’ll feature a specific coin and share historic details, mintage figures, and previous sales information when known. The coins featured in this blog will have been certified by PCGS, with some of the information also provided by PCGS’ Certification Database. To learn more about PCGS’ Certification Database and other services available, visit https://www.pcgs.com.

Seldom-Seen Classic Head Half Eagle

The Coin of the Week for March 8-14 is an 1838-D Classic Head Half Eagle. This $5 gold coin was graded AU-50 by PCGS.

There are many fascinating aspects to this coin, including the fact that the full production of this type of coin was struck from one die pair. All told, there were 20,583 coins struck, with somewhere around 200-250 examples known to remain today, according to information presented on the Stack’s Bowers website.

This Coin of the Week is featured in Part 2 of Stack’s Bowers March 2020 Baltimore U.S. Coins auction. Live bidding for the auction begins on March 20. Visit www.stacksbowers.com for more information. UPDATE: On March 13, Stack’s Bowers announced that in light of the cancellation of the Baltimore based Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo, the company is still planning to hold its planned auction at a facility close to the company’s California home offices. For clients unable to attend the live auction in California, please call 800-458-4646 or email info@stacksbowers.com to request phone descriptions from the firm’s specialists, to place absentee bids, or to arrange bidding by telephone.

Unique Mintmark Placement

1838-D Classic Head Half Eagle, AU-50 PCGS

In addition to being the product of just one die pair, it’s design features the mintmark, from the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, present on the obverse, just above the year. In later issues, the mintmark appears on the reverse of the coin.

The coin’s composition is reported to be 90% gold and 10% copper. The design, best known as the “Classic Head” is the creation of William Kneass, who served as the second Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, from 1824 to 1840.


About PCGS: Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) represents the industry standard in third-party certification. Visit www.pcgs.com for more information.

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