Estimated grade. Ex. Kreisberg-Schulman Sale (1960) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $990
Doug Winter: After a four-year hiatus, the New Orleans mint resumed production of half eagles in 1851. After this issue, production would be halted again, this time for three years.
The 1851-O half eagle is a scarce date in all grades. It is usually seen in VF to EF grades and is hard to locate in properly graded EF45. It is rare in AU and it becomes very rare in the higher range of this grade. There are just four to five known in Uncirculated.
STRIKE: The 1851-O is the least well struck New Orleans half eagle from the 1850s. Many are seen with considerable weakness at the centers. On the obverse, this entails the curls below LIBER which are usually extremely flat. Interestingly, the periphery is very sharp with full radial lines in the stars. The reverse shows weakness on the leg feathers below the shield, the claws and the arrow feathers. The periphery is sharp, as on the obverse. There are a few 1851-O half eagles known with sharp strikes. This coin illustrated above, which is in the Pinnacle collection, is among the best struck that I have seen.
SURFACES: The surfaces tend to show numerous marks but are not as heavily abraded as on the issues from 1845 through 1847. The obverse fields, for some reason, seem to show more marks than on the reverse and I have seen a number of 1851-O half eagles with conspicuous marks in the left obverse field.
LUSTER: The luster is grainy in texture and even on uncleaned, original coins it has a subdued appearance. I have never seen an 1851-O that was reflective. The luster is often impaired due to the fact that many have been cleaned at one time.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is most often a medium to deep green-gold. A few are seen with a more orange-gold hue. Many have been scrubbed to a bright, unnatural appearance.
EYE APPEAL: The eye appeal for this date is below average. This is primarily due to the fact that most are very weak at the obverse and reverse center. In addition, the luster is very grainy in texture and has a look that is not necessarily appealing to all viewers. A few attractive pieces are known and these are worth substantial premiums over typical examples.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There is a raised dot on the upper cure of Liberty’s breast directly above the 1 in the date. Some raised die polish lines can be seen in the letters in LIBERTY; these are not visible on lower grade coins. A diagonal die line connects a denticle to the upper right serif of the N in UNITED. The tops of the two lines in the second set of vertical lines in the shield have a distinctive V-shape.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There are two varieties known:
Variety One: The date is perfect with now signs of repunching. The mintmark is low and centered above the VE in FIVE.
This is the more common of the two varieties.
Variety Two: The 1 in the date is repunched at its peak. The mintmark is higher than on Variety One and placed above the V In FIVE.
This is the scarcer of the two varieties.
David Akers (1975/88): This is a very rare date and it is virtually unobtainable in choice condition. Most known specimens are only VF or EF at best and usually they are weakly struck, particularly on the hair curls around the face. I have seen only a few pieces better than EF but not one of them was strictly uncirculated.