1842-O $5 MS61 Certification #50176442, PCGS #8212
David Akers (1975/88)
The 1842-O is yet another date that has never really been given its due as a rarity. It is seldom available in any condition and on the infrequent occassions one is offered, it is invariably only VF or lower. I have never seen an uncirculated example or even a strictly graded AU for that matter. I have, however, seen several choice EF's, but not all that many even at that level.
Doug WinterThe 1842-O is the second rarest New Orleans half eagle, trailing only the 1847-O. It is as hard to locate in higher grades as the rarest Charlotte and Dahlonega half eagles (the 1842-C Small Date and the 1842-D Large Date) but it is far less publicized. In grades above EF45, the 1842-O is nearly impossible to find.
The half eagles struck in 1842 at the other three mints each had two varieties consisting of date and reverse lettering sizes. The 1842-O is the only half eagle produced this year with a single variety.
The 1842-O is the second scarcest New Orleans half eagle. It is usually seen in low grades and even accurately graded EF pieces are extremely scarce. This date is very rare in AU and the majority of the examples known in this range are no better than AU50 to AU53. The 1842-O half eagle is extremely rare in Uncirculated with just two or three pieces known.
STRIKE: This is not a well struck issue, although it does tend to come with better overall detail than some of the other branch mint half eagles produced during 1842. At least half of the 1842-O half eagles that I have seen are found very weakly struck on the curls below BERT in LIBERTY. This weakness corresponds to the center of the reverse. The rest of the coin tends to show good detail although even some of the better struck pieces have weakness on the hairbun and the eagle’s neck feathers.
SURFACES: Nearly every known 1842-O half eagle is very heavily abraded and has deep, detracting abrasions. For some reason, these are more prevalent on the obverse than on the reverse. This date was clearly actively used in daily commerce and it circulated very roughly. As a result, it is nearly impossible to locate a piece that has clean surfaces. The collector should be concerned with the placement and depth of marks rather than their existence.
LUSTER: Most 1842-O half eagles show enough wear that there is no luster present. On the higher grade pieces that exist, the luster tens to be slightly prooflike with a somewhat grainy texture. I have seen a small number of frosty pieces. Any example that shows more than a small amount of original luster is very rare and desirable.
COLORATION: The natural coloration is a deep greenish-gold, which is distinctive to the early half eagles from this mint. In over two decades of specializing in New Orleans gold coinage, I cannot recall having seen more than four or five 1842-O half eagles that had original color.
EYE APPEAL: This is a rare coin that is almost never seen with good eye appeal. A majority of the survivors are poorly struck with weak centers and nearly every known piece is heavily abraded. Coupled with the fact that many have been cleaned at one time and that most show heavy wear, this means that standards have to be relaxed when discussing the eye appeal of this date.
DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are no distinguishing die characteristics. Despite this fact, the 1842-O half eagle has a very distinct look that makes it easy to recognize.
MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single variety known:
Variety One: The date and the reverse lettering are both small in size. The date is about midway between the truncation and the denticles and it slants slightly downwards. All pieces show a fairly broad mill although not as much so as on the 1842-C and 1842-D Large Date varieties. The mintmark is small and placed over the right side of the V in FIVE.