Archive for August, 2013

Meltings Impact Rarity

August 20th, 2013  |  Published in Coin Series

It was a fairly consistent problem within early United States coinage that the market value of the metals would exceed the face value. The precious metal content for each denomination had been established under the Coinage Act of 1792 and no allowances were made for fluctuations in the price of the metals which frequently resulted from shifts in supply and demand. When the value of the metals exceeded the face value by a sufficient margin, coins were melted so that the metals could be reclaimed at a profit.

While the situation occurred across all denominations and across several series, one of the most pronounced occurrences was for the Capped Bust Half Eagle series, which ran from 1807 until 1834. This can be illustrated with two coins of the series. The first was issued with an extremely low mintage, while the second had a significantly higher mintage. As it turns out, the higher mintage coin is now incredibly more rare than the first.

The half eagles of 1815 had a mintage of merely 635 pieces. This amount may seem impossibly low for modern collectors, and it was also recognized as such by collectors of the 19th century. In modern times, there are elven identified survivors from the original mintage, making this a highly desired issue.

Later in 1822, the half eagles had a mintage of 17,796 pieces. Despite topping the mintage of the 1815 by nearly 30-fold, the vast majority of the coins were melted. This occurred overseas and even at the United States Mint, who would later re-coin the metal into the subsequent series with a lower gold content. This resulted in merely two survivors, setting up one of the most coveted rarities in American numismatics.