Estimated grade. Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $412.5
Doug Winter: The 1851-C is a much scarcer issue than the other half eagles struck at Charlotte between 1849 and 1853. Despite this coin’s rarity in higher grade, it remains a somewhat forgotten and clearly underrated issue.
The 1851-C is a scarce coin in all grades. When available, it tends to come in the Very Fine and Extremely Fine range. It is very scarce in About Uncirculated and quite rare in properly graded AU55 to AU58. In Uncirculated, this date is extremely rare with just four or five known, including an MS64.
STRIKE: This is not one of the better struck Charlotte half eagles form this era. The obverse usually has a somewhat blunt appearance. The curls around the face are often weak and the curl below the ear tends to show a lack of detail. There is also weakness on the curls at the back of Liberty’s head, the rear of the bun and on some of the stars. The reverse is better detailed but it also has areas of weakness. The arrow feathers and the claws are usually weak as are the legs, neck feathers and, less often, the horizontal lines of the shield. On some 1851-C half eagles, the left corner of the shield is weaker than the right side.
SURFACES: This date tends to come with very poor quality surfaces. In fact, examples with choice, unabraded fields are among the rarest half eagles from this mint. Nearly every example known has deep, unsightly abrasions on both sides. On some pieces, the surfaces have a slightly grainy texture, while others have noticeable striations in the obverse fields.
LUSTER: The luster is typically subdued as a result of heavy abrasions and/or past cleanings. On the few high grade pieces that exist, the luster is frosty with a slight amount of reflectivity in the fields.
COLORATION: The natural color of this date is typically a deep green-gold. The color is very distinctive and differs from other Charlotte half eagles of this era. Very few pieces are known with original color and any such piece is worth a premium over the typical dipped-out coin.
EYE APPEAL: An 1851-C with good eye appeal is one of the rarest Charlotte half eagles. Most examples are weakly struck, very heavily abraded and have lost virtually all of their originality as a result of harsh cleanings or over-dipping. The few known high grade examples are in strong demand among date collectors.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: Most examples have a small mint-made punch mark in the lobe of Liberty’s ear. While small, the punch mark can be seen even on well-worn coins...
DIE VARIETIES: There are two die varieties known.
Variety 1 (formerly Variety 16-G): The so-called “earring” variety with a small, mint-made punchmark clearly visible on Liberty’s ear lobe. The first 1 in the date is very close to the bust while the second 1 is close to both the neck and the denticles. Both 1s are further from the bust than on Variety 2. This variety is sometimes seen with boldly clashed dies.
This is by far the more common of the two varieties.
Variety 2 (formerly Variety 17-G): This variety lacks the earring described above for variety 1. The date is placed higher in the field than on the other variety. The first 1 is solidly joined to the bust while the second 1 is very close and almost touches it. There is a tiny projection extending to the left from the base of the first 1, a remnant of an earlier punch. The reverse is the same as described above for the 1849-C, with the crack as seen on Die States II.
David Akers (1975/88): Almost all examples of this date grade from Fine to EF. AU specimens are very rare and although uncirculated pieces may exist, I have never seen one. The 1851-C is more rare as a date than the 1847-C, 1848-C, 1849-C, 1850-C, 1852-C and 1853-C and comparable to all the C Mint coins from 1855 to 1860, even those with much lower mintages. Collectors needing this date generally have to be satisfied with VF or possibly EF.