Estimated grade. Ex. Douglas MANA Sale (1957) Sold by David Akers Numismatics Oct '97 Price realized $4400
Doug Winter: The 1854-D is among the more common Dahlonega half eagles, especially in higher grades. It is much rarer in Mint State than the 1853-D half eagle.
The 1854-D is one of the more common Dahlonega half eagles. It can be located with relative ease in Very Fine and Extremely Fine grades. Low-end About Uncirculated pieces exist in enough quantity to satisfy type collectors but high quality About Uncirculated examples of this date are scarcer than generally believed. In Mint State, this date is very rare.
STRIKE: As with the 1853-D half eagle, the 1854-D is found with two distinctive – and very dissimilar – appearances. The majority are flatly struck at the borders and have an almost sunken appearance. This is the result of the centers being so much sharper than the border. Many have nearly complete hair detail with just a touch of weakness on the curls near the face of Liberty. The stars are mostly sharp while the denticles are blurry and indistinct. The reverse shows the same appearance with strong detail on the feathers of the eagle and the claws but weakness on the denticles. Some are known which are stronger at the border and which show less pronounced beveling at the rims. These pieces are quite rare.
A small number of 1854-D half eagles have extremely faint mintmarks. I have seen two or three on which the mintmark was so faint that there was no trace of it. Others exist which have the mintmark faintly impressed but barely visible to the naked eye. These generally trade for reduced levels in comparison to those with boldly impressed mintmarks.
SURFACES: Many 1854-D half eagles show numerous detracting abrasions on the surfaces. Pieces are known, however, which are quite clean and appear to have spent little time in circulation. Some exist with matte-like surfaces from exposure to saltwater. While these coins show the sharpness of Uncirculated, they are generally valued at the Extremely Fine price level.
LUSTER: This issue shows above average luster for a Dahlonega half eagle. The luster is frosty with a slightly grainy texture.
COLORATION: Uncleaned, original examples can show some of the most appealing coloration seen on any Dahlonega half eagles. These colors can range from bright orange-gold to subdued greenish-gold. Coins with nice original coloration have become very hard to locate.
EYE APPEAL: It is possible to obtain an 1854-D half eagle which has above average eye appeal. However, the collector needs to realize the difficulty in finding a piece which is not weak at the borders.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: The finest known 1854-D half eagle is the Gem in the Duke’s Creek collection. It is one of the two finest Dahlonega half eagles I have ever seen, along with the similarly graded 1841-D in the same collection. It has been offered in four different Stack’s auctions since 1969 and in its last appearance in 1995 it brought over $70,000.
DIE VARIETIES: A total of five die varieties are currently known.
Variety 30-W: Medium Mintmark. On the obverse, the 1 in the date is very close to the truncation. The reverse is the same as described for 1853-D Variety 29-W. Coins struck from this reverse generally have a sharp mintmark.
Late die states show a crack from the left wing to IC in America.
Variety 31-T: Large Mintmark. On the obverse, the 1 in the date is well below the truncation. The reverse is the same as described for 1853-D Variety 29-T.
Coins struck from this reverse generally have a weak mintmark.
Variety 31-X: Large Mintmark. The obverse is the same as on the last. The mintmark is strongly impressed and it touches the branch but is away from the feather. It is positioned slightly to the right of the center of the E.
Variety 31-Y: Large Mintmark. The obverse is the same as seen on the last. The mintmark is always seen weakly struck on this variety. It is higher than on any other reverse of 1854-D half eagle and is positioned above the right side of the V in FIVE.
Variety 31-Z: Large Mintmark. The obverse is the same as seen on the last. The mintmark is always seen weakly struck on this variety. The mintmark is noticeably tilted to the right and the upright is positioned above the left side of the right serif of the V in FIVE.David Akers (1975/88): This one of the three or four most common Dahlonega Mint Half Eagles in all grades and is probably the most available in strictly uncirculated condition. At least I have seen more mint state examples of the 1854-D than I have of any other. It is still a very scarce date, however, and AU and Unc. specimens must definitely be regarded as rare. A quantity of "salt water uncs" is known but these are worth considerably less than normal uncirculated examples. All specimens I have seen are very weakly struck at the borders and most show some weakness on Liberty's hair curls and parts of the eagle.
Stack’s, sold privately in 12/1969 - George Scanlon Collection - Stack’s 10/1973:2315 - Bowers & Ruddy “Fairfield Collection” 10/1977:1773 (per Doug Winter) - Arthur Montgomery Collection - Stack's 8/1984:1346, $19,800 - Ed Milas Collection - Stack's 5/1995:493, $71,500 - Hancock & Harwell - Duke’s Creek Collection - offered by MARCG/Harwell in 9/2012 as part of the Duke's Creek Collection for $165,000
Stack's/Bowers 11/2011:9510, $49,450
Joe Flynn, sold privately in 3/1978 - Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection - Bowers & Merena 10/1999:1054, $36,800 - Superior 3/2001:819, $34,500 - Heritage 1/2003:4785, $62,100 - Heritage 1/2004:9031, $52,900 - Goldbergs 9/2008:1465, $57,500