Estimated grade. Ex. Green; Farouk (1954) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $12100
Doug Winter: The 1838-D half eagle is a very desirable issue. It is the first coin of this denomination struck at the Dahlonega Mint and the only Classic Head half eagle produced at this facility. It is less rare than one might believe but its popularity makes it one of the most highly valued Dahlonega half eagles.
The 1838-D is one of the more available Dahlonega half eagles but its status as a one year type coin and as a first year of issue makes it extremely popular. It is fairly easy to locate in Very Fine and Extremely Fine and lower quality About Uncirculated pieces are available. It becomes very scarce in the higher About Uncirculated grades and extremely rare in full Mint State.
STRIKE: The 1838-D is the best struck branch mint half eagle of this design. The obverse is usually well struck with all of the hair detail bold and defined. Some of the curls on the top of Liberty’s head appear weak; this is due to incomplete definition in the design. The stars are mostly sharp while the denticles are clear. The reverse is also well struck. Unlike the 1838-C half eagle (which has weak wings and incomplete details on the eagle’s right leg), the 1838-D generally shows fully defined feathers on the eagle and legs.
SURFACES: Many are very heavily abraded with marks in the field which enter deep into the planchet. In fact, it is hard to find an 1838-D half eagle which is not seriously marked. All known examples show a number of mint-made characteristics which serve as hallmarks of authenticity. There are two small die lumps in the ear if Liberty and die scratches on the throat and through the word LIBERTY. There are frequently a series of small clashmarks at the throat and in the vertical lines of the shield.
LUSTER: Higher grade 1838-D half eagles have frosty luster. The quality of luster is very good in comparison to the 1838-C half eagle.
COLORATION: Original, uncleaned examples can show exceptionally nice coloration. Some have lovely orange-gold hues with coppery overtones while others show medium to deep green-gold shading. There are not many remaining which have a majority of their original coloration intact.
EYE APPEAL: Most 1838-D half eagles have below average eye appeal due to the fact that they are heavily worn, cleaned and/or significantly abraded. But when this date comes nice, it can be among the most pleasing issues in the entire Classic Head half eagle series. There are approximately six to eight exceptionally nice 1838-D half eagles in existence with great color, nearly full luster, relatively clean surfaces and sharp, even strike.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: A remarkable group of 183w8-D half eagles was sold in the Heritage 1999 FUN auction as part of the North Georgia collection. The owner of the collection loved the design and history of this date and he acquired ten different specimens. These ranged in grade from Extremely Fine-45 to Mint State-62 and brought between $4,600 and $40,250. My personal favorite was Lot 7672. It was graded About Uncirculated-58 by PCGS and was notable for its magnificent multi-hued coloration. It brought $21,850, a record price for an About Uncirculated 1838-D half eagle.
DIE VARIETIES: One die variety is known.
Variety 1-A: The mintmark is located on the obverse; the only issue from this mint on which it is placed there. The mintmark is over the 3 in the date with the upright of the D over the ball of the 3. All of the numerals except for the second 8 are doubled at the base and the 8’s have the distinctive style referred to as “fancy 8’s”. On the reverse, the tip of the feather is centered over the 5. The D in the value is centered between the branch stem and the denticles. The second A in AMERICA is centered between the C and the arrowhead. The reeding is wide.David Akers (1975/88): The 1838-D is the third rarest date of this type after the 1834 Crosslet 4 and 1838-C. It is known in a wide range of grades but VF and EF are the grades one is most likely to encounter. I have seen only a few that by strict grading standards could be called uncirculated (the finest was Pine Tree 6/75) and not many more that were legitimately AU.
Plate coin in Doug Winter’s third edition of “Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861”
Milford Collection - Heritage 1/2011:5105, $57,500
Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection - Bowers & Merena 10/1999:870, $29,900