David Akers (1975/88):
The legendary 1822 Half Eagle is the most famous and desirable U.S. gold coin. It traded hands at fantastic prices when other great rarities that are now worth six figure prices were bringing mere pittances. There are three known specimens, two permanently impounded in the Smithsonian Institution (one in the Mint Collection, the other in the Lilly Collection) and one in the Louis Eliasberg Collection. The specimen in the Mint Collection has been there since the 1830's. The Lilly specimen was purchased from Amon Carter, Jr. in the early 1960's and is the H. P. Smith-William Dunham specimen. It was offered in the 1890 Parmelee Sale where it had a realized price of $900. In 1906, it sold in the H.P. Smith Collection Sale for $2165 and later brought a record $11,575 at the Dunham Sale. The Eliasberg coin was purchased by Mr. Eliasberg in July, 1945 from Abe Kosoff for $14,000. All three specimens are in the VF to EF range with the Eliasberg specimen being the finest of the three.
Despite a reported mintage of 17,796 pieces, the 1822 Half Eagle is known by only three examples, making it one of the rarest of all regular-issue U.S. coins.
Pedigrees of the three known examples are as follows:
1. National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, reportedly from a collection of coins built by Adam Eckfeldt.
2. National Numismatic Collection. Harlan P. Smith (purchased circa 1884 at a bullion dealer’s coin shop for $6.50)– Lorin G. Parmelee collection sale, June 25-27, 1890, Lot 938, consigned as a stand-in by Harlan P. Smith and bought back by him for $900 – S.H. & H. Chapman, 1906, Lot 210, $2,165 – William Forrester Dunham - B. Max Mehl – Mehl “Dunham” 1941, Lot 2095, $11,575 – Charles M. Williams – Kosoff & Kaplan – B. Max mehl - Amon Carter, Sr. – Amon Carter, Jr. – Josiah K. Lilly – donated by Lilly’s estate to the National Numismatic Collection in exchange for a $5.5 million tax credit. According to Breen, Dunham refused an offer of $35,000 from J.P. Morgan for this coin.
3. Pogue Family Collection. Ex – Joseph J. Mickley (privately) – Wiliam Sumner Appleton – W.E. Woodward - Coin dealer M. David (1899) - Virgil Brand – Horace Brand – Louis Eliasberg, Sr. (via Abe Kosoff for $14,000) - Bowers & Ruddy Galleries “The United States Gold Coin Collection” 1982, Lot 378, $687,500 – David Akers.
According to David Akers, the Eliasberg/Pogue coin is the finest of the three examples.
Lorin G. Parmelee owned an example (ex George F. Seavey Collection, 1873) that was deemed to be counterfeit. Harlan P. Smith substituted his authentic example as a stand-in, but bought it back at the sale. According to Breen, this piece is grossly oversize and crude as is another example shown to him in 1958.
Sources and/or recommended reading:
“Three’s Company” by Paul Gilkes, COIN WORLD, May 15, 2000, p. 16
“Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial Coins” by Walter Breen