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The Half Eagle, or $5.00 Gold piece was one of the nation's most actively circulating gold coins. Roughly equivalent to today's $100 bill, it proved quite useful in commerce in the days before credit cards. The Half Eagle enjoys the distinction almost uninterrupted mintage from 1795 through 1916. In fact, only in 1801, 1816 and 1817 were Half Eagles not coined. Do however to mass melting and exporting, nearly all dates prior to 1834 are rare, with dates in the 1820s and early 1830s particularly so. Being a long-lived series, the Half Eagles are replete with rarities. Several however, bear special mention as they are among the rarest of all U.S. coins. Heading the list is, of course, the famous 1822 $5.00. Despite an original mintage of 17,800 pieces, apparently nearly all were melted, and only 3 are extant today. Two of these are in the National Collection, leaving one available to the numismatic public. Also high on the list is the 1798 Small Eagle Reverse. Only seven of these are known, and prices will run from the mid to upper six figures. Finally, there is the 1854-S, a legendary rarity of which three are known, one of which is in the National Collection. The super rare 1875, with an original mintage of only 200 pieces is the last of the really difficult dates, although the 1929 Indian will take some searching as most were believed to have been melted in 1934. When the major varieties are included, the set requirements increase by 47 coins. In a set of this scope and difficulty, the additional coins simply set an even higher bar. And for a set already with its share of six and seven figure rarities, what's a few more? Although this is not a set one undertakes with the realistic expectation of completion, the vast scope of the nation's Half Eagle coinage is certainly a collection worthy of pursuit.
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