The Survival Estimate represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in three categories: 1) all grades, 2) 60 or better, and 3) 65 or better. These estimates are based on a variety of sources, including population reports, auction appearances, and personal knowledge. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Numismatic Rarity converts the Survival Estimate for a particular coin into a number from 1 to 10 (with decimal increments) based on the PCGS Rarity Scale. The higher the number, the more rare the coin.
Relative Rarity By Type
Relative Rarity By Type ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Type. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
Relative Rarity By Series
Relative Rarity By Series ranks the rarity of this coin with all other coins of this Series. Lower numbers indicate rarer coins.
In 1842, there was a design transition on half eagles struck at the Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dahlonega (but not at New Orleans) mints. Beginning in the latter part of this year, both the date and reverse lettering sizes were enlarged. At the Charlotte and Dahlonega branch mints, varieties were created which had a Small Date (these were struck first) and a Large Date. For the Dahlonega half eagles of 1842, the Small Date, Small Letters variety is by far the more available of the two.
The 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters half eagle is a reasonably common coin in terms of its overall rarity. But the vast majority of examples grade Very Fine to Extremely Fine. This issue is very scarce in the lower About Uncirculated grades, rare in the upper range of this grade and very rare in full Mint State.
STRIKE: This variety shows a slightly below average quality of strike. On the obverse, there is almost always weakness on the curl below the ear of Liberty and on the curls below BERT. The stars are thin and fine and have an elegant appearance not seen on other issues of this era. The reverse is usually weak on the eagle’s left and right legs, both sets of claws and on parts of the arrow feathers. The borders are sharp with full denticles and strongly defined rims.
SURFACES: The 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters half eagle is an issue which is almost always found with very heavily abraded surfaces. The typical piece has numerous deep, detracting marks in the fields. This is generally true for both lower grade and higher grade examples.
LUSTER: The luster seen on high grade, original examples is above average. Such coins tend to show rich, frosty luster with very slightly reflective texture. A few are known which are semi-prooflike but these tend to be unappealing due to heavily marked surfaces.
COLORATION: Some examples have distinctive orange-gold coloration. Others have rich medium to deep greenish-gold hues. Most are dull and unattractive as a result of having been cleaned or dipped.
EYE APPEAL: The 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters half eagle is a difficult issue to locate with good eye appeal. Most are noticeably abraded and are not well struck. A number show signs of cleaning or they have been repeatedly dipped. The few that exist with very good eye appeal are worth a considerable premium over the typical example.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: This variety is similar in high grade rarity to the 1841-D except for the fact that there are no very high grade pieces known.
DIE VARIETIES: Two die varieties are known.
Variety 7-E: Small Date. The left base of the 1 is positioned above the left side of a denticle. The date numerals are fairly consistent in their height. The reverse has Small Letters as on 1839-1841 half eagles. The Small D mintmark is centered between the tip of the feather and the V in FIVE. The left edge of the mintmark is over the left edge of the V in FIVE while the upright is over the center of the left diagonal of the V in FIVE. The right edge of the mintmark is over the center of the right diagonal of the V in FIVE.
Variety 8-E: Small Date. The left base of the 1 is positioned over the center of a denticle. The 1 is tall, the 8 is smaller and the 42 is tall with the top if the 1 well over the 8. The reverse is the same as on the other variety.
David Akers (1975/88):
Although usually referred to as the 1842-D Small Date, this issue should be called the 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters since the 1842-D with the large date has large letters on the reverse. (Compare this situation to the 1842-C Small Date and Large Date, both of which have the same Small Letters reverse of 1840-1841.) The 1842-D Small Date, Small Letters is rare in all grades, although not nearly as rare as the underrated 1842-D Large Date, Large Letters. The typical specimen is VF or EF and AU specimens are very rare. Strictly uncirculated examples are extremely rare and I have seen only a few that I considered legitimately uncirculated.
Quickfinder Notes: On the Small Date, the base of the 8 is slightly ABOVE the base of the 1. The Large Date has the base of the 8 BELOW the base of the 1. The Small Date is always seen with the Small Letter Reverse; rather widely spaced and away from the rim. The Small Dates were struck before the Mint changed to the Large Date, Large Letter dies and are much more common. However, of the eight Mint State specimens graded as of October, 2013, none were higher than MS-62.
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