1838-C $5 XF45

CERTIFICATION#: -35283
PCGS#: 8177

Owner's Comments

PCGS grade. Ex. Green; Farouk (1954) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $4400

Expert Comments

David Akers (1975/88): The 1838-C is the second rarest issue of this type and it is exceedingly difficult to locate even in strictly EF condition. I have seen only one uncirculated specimen, the coin in Stack's 4/78 sale that realized $10,500, and I have seen only one other that even graded AU-50. The reverse of most specimens has a die break running from the rim diagonally across the eagle's shield to the leaves.Doug Winter: The 1838-C half eagle is among the most popular coins produced at this mint. It is the only Charlotte half eagle that employed William Kneass’ Classic Head design of 1834-1838 and its great popularity stems from the fact that it is a one-year type with first-year-of issue status. Unlike many first year coins that were saved as souvenirs (or that have misreported original mintage figures) and are, as a result, more common than on might expect, the 1838-C is an extremely rare coin in high grades. This is an interesting contrast to the 1838-D half eagle which is far more available in About Uncirculated and Uncirculated than in lower circulated grades.

The 1838-C half eagle is usually found with a good deal of wear and is most often seen on the VF to EF grade range. It becomes scarce in properly graded EF45 and is very rare in any AU grade. This is among the rarest Charlotte half eagles in Uncirculated and I am aware of no more than two to four pieces that grade Mint State by today’s standards.

STRIKE: This is not generally a well struck issue. The obverse is the sharper of the two sides. The curls below BER show weakness but are better detailed than on the Philadelphia half eagles of this design. Some areas in the upper hair appear weak but this is due to lapping of the die and not actual weakness of the strike. The stars are mostly well defined, with many showing full radial lines. The reverse shows a much lighter strike. This is, once again, as much a function of die lapping as it is actual weakness. Certain areas of the right wing, especially the outside base and the junction of the wing and the shield, appear to be missing entirely. The top of the eagle’s head and the bottom of the neck appear disjointed from the top of the shield. In addition, much of the eagle’s right leg is not full. The lettering can appear to be quite weak, particularly at the top of UNITED and AMERICA.

SURFACES: Virtually all 1838-C half eagles have extremely heavily abraded surfaces. The fields are usually disturbed due to the depth and intensity of these marks. This is often compounded by the fact that most examples have been cleaned at one time. I have seen numerous 1838-C half eagles with scratches, digs or severe impairments on the surfaces. Any piece with choice surfaces is very rare and desirable.

LUSTER: The typical coin is worn to the point that it shows little in the way of original luster. Higher grade coins tend to show luster which combines frostiness with semi-prooflike reflectiveness.

COLORATION: The natural coloration is a pleasing medium green-gold and yellow-gold mixture. A few are known with very attractive natural coppery-orange toning. There are no more than a handful of examples left that have full original coloration and most of these are in lower grades. A higher grade 1838-C half eagle that has mot been dipped or harshly cleaned is extremely desirable and is worth a considerable premium over a typical example.

EYE APPEAL: There are not many issues from this mint that are more difficult to locate with above-average eye appeal than the 1838-C half eagle. This is because most examples are very well worn, poorly struck and excessively abraded. Attractive examples always command a strong premium over typical quality specimens.

DIE CHARACTERISTICS: Although it may not be clear on lower grade pieces, there is a small centering dot visible in the lower portion of Liberty’s ear. The feathers on the eagles’ right side (the viewer’s left) are weak from die lapping. On some coins, the feathers along the right side of the shield are entirely missing and there are hollow areas in the wing all the way through to the middle portion. This should not be mistaken for wear.

DIE VARIETIES: Two die varieties are known.

Variety 1 (formerly Variety 1-A): Only one obverse is known. It is immediately recognizable by a sharp center punch in the ear of Liberty. The style of the 8s in the date is similar to that seen on the Philadelphia half eagles of this year but unlike those seen on the 1838-D half eagle. The date is close and curved, with the 1 taller than the other digits. The mintmark is positioned above the 3, slightly to the left of center.

On the reverse, the 5 is normal and it shows no signs of having been repunched. The berry is slender and it has no stem. The leaves below the U in UNITED are not equal in size and are distant from this letter. NIT in UNITED is spaced far apart as in TAT in STATES. The E in AMERICA is above the R of this word at the base. The 5 is nearly centered in the field between the feathers and the denticles. The first A in AMERICA is not joined to the wing.

This variety is not generally seen with severe breaks.

Variety 2 (formerly Variety 1-B): On this variety, the reverse is recognizable by having clear repunching on the 5. There is a single leaf below the U in UNITED which touches this letter from below. The N in UNITED is recut on the serifs, the D in UNITED is recut at the top, the TE in STATES are recut at the top and the F in OF is sharply recut along its top. The AM in AMERICA shows light repunching. The 5 is closer to the denticles than to the feathers. While this reverse is, on occasion, found perfect, it is more often seen with a bold diagonal break that runs from the rim through the leaves, the leg of the eagle, the center of the shield, the field over the eagle’s wing on the right and to the rim over the wing tip.

Variety 2 is considerably scarcer than Variety 1.

Diameter: 22.50 millimeters Designer: William Kneass Edge: Reeded
Mintage: 17,179 Weight: 8.24 grams Metal Content: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

Rarity and Survival Estimates

Grades Survival Estimate Numismatic Rarity Relative Rarity by Type Relative Rarity by Series
All Grades 175 R-7.2 2 / 8 2 / 8
60 or Better 3 R-9.8 1 / 8 1 / 8
65 or Better 0 R-10.1 1 / 8 1 / 8

Condition Census

Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS63 PCGS grade  

Goliad Corporation, 8/1991 - Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection - Bowers & Merena 10/1999:866, $86,250

2 MS62 estimated grade  
3 AU58 PCGS grade  
3 AU58 PCGS grade  
3 AU58 PCGS grade