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.
The 1859-D has the second lowest mintage figure in the entire twenty four year history of the Dahlonega half eagle series. It is nearly identical in overall rarity to the 1858-D but it is rarer in high grades.
The 1859-D half eagle is usually found in Extremely Fine grades. It becomes rare in About Uncirculated-50 and it is very rare in the higher About Uncirculated grades. In full Mint State, the 1859-D half eagle is extremely rare.
STRIKE: The 1859-D half eagle invariably shows weakness at the centers. On the obverse, the curls at the face and below the ear of Liberty are weak, as is the back of the neck which can be so flat that this is confused for wear. The first three or four stars may show weakness but they become stronger towards the final few. The reverse is better struck but it is often somewhat weak on the shield, the eagle’s legs and the top of the claws. The milling on both sides is sharp. Every known example has rounded rims with a beveled appearance.
SURFACES: Many 1859-D half eagles show mint-made roughness in the fields. The surfaces often show numerous marks and many have been ruined by overzealous cleanings.
LUSTER: This date does not usually have good luster. When luster is present, it is mostly satiny with a grainy texture.
COLORATION: The coloration on original, uncleaned examples is medium to deep green-gold. Pieces are also known with lighter orange-gold shading. Most have been cleaned or dipped at one time.
EYE APPEAL: This is a difficult issue to locate with good eye appeal on account of weakness of strike, mint-made planchet problems and heavy abrasions. The few really choice 1859-D half eagles in existence are off the market and years can go by without a genuinely appealing piece being offered for sale.
DIE VARIETIES: Three die varieties are known to exist.
Variety 36-CC: Medium Mintmark. On the obverse, the date is small and it is located low in the field. The reverse is the same as described for Variety 34-CC and Variety 35-CC.
This is by far the more common of the two varieties.
Variety 36-DD: Medium Mintmark. The obverse is the same as on the previous variety. The mintmark is positioned well to the right and is directly above the E in IVE. The discovery coin appears to be Bass II: 1114. I have not seen another example of this variety.
This variety is very rare.
Variety 37-EE: Large Mintmark. The date is small and located slightly higher than on the other obverse of this year. The bottom of the 5 is positioned below the 8 while the bottom of the 9 is positioned below the 5. The mintmark is positioned high and is positioned mostly over the E. The discovery coin appears to be Bass II: 1117.
This variety is very rare.
David Akers (1975/88):
The 1859-D has the second lowest mintage of any Dahlonega Mint Half Eagle yet surprisingly, it has appeared at auction more often than some dates with much higher mintages. It is also more often available in AU or Unc grades than many other D Mint issues and I have seen several very choice mint state pieces. However, the 1859-D still must be considered to be rare in all grades and very rare in uncirculated condition. All specimens I have seen are rather weakly struck on the hair curls around the face and on parts of the eagle. The rims are well rounded.
Quickfinder Notes: The easiest way to determine the Medium D is that it appears to be WIDER than it is Tall. It is placed horizontally under the eagle away from the feather and stem. It is spaced well above Five D. The Large D appears TALLER than it is WIDE. The D is tilted up with its left top very close to the arrow feather. The Medium D is far more common with several Mint State examples graded. The Large D is rare. As Doug Winter points out, the Harry Bass II:1117 coin "appears" to be the discovery specimen. Only a few specimens have been graded so far and none in Mint State.
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