The 1820 Specimen Strike Half Eagle is an extraordinary American rarity. A coin which essentially is at the beginning of the Proof era and clearly specially handled and struck by mint employees and given the coveted ‘Specimen’ designation by NGC as evidence of that special handling.
The Half Eagle was the only gold denomination actually struck in 1820. During that era, gold bullion deposits to the U.S. Mint were lower because the actual value of gold was worth more than the face value of the coins being produced. Thus, it was actually a common occurrence for people to not spend their coinage, but to trade those coins for a profit to an intermediary who would then export the coin out of the country. This issue was ultimately rectified in 1829 with the introduction of the 1829 Small Diameter issue, effectively eliminating enough gold from the surface of the gold to create an actual $5 in gold content for the time.
In a letter to President James Monroe on December 30th, 1820, Mint Director Robert Patterson spells out that just over 263,000 Half Eagles were prepared that year, and absolutely no other gold denominations were made. This, of course, is the only certified Specimen Strike. These issues were often prepared for presentation, for the Mint cabinet, or for some other important individual.
It took many years for the story of other such incredible rarities as the 1794 Silver Dollar PCGS SP66 to rise to the level of stardom that they appreciate today. That particular coin once placed hands for just a couple million dollars, and then a couple of million dollars more, and then a few million dollars more, and then finally more than $10,000,000 just a few years ago – becoming the most expensive coin to ever sell in a public setting.
The “Fat Head” series of Half Eagles is notorious for being one of the most heavily sought after and difficult series of coins from which to acquire important pieces. Dates such as the legendary 1822 are valued in the many millions of dollars just as circulation strikes since so few are known. An example of the 1829 Proof Half Eagle was auctioned off in 2012 for $1,380,000 and traded hands yet again only recently in the last few years for purportedly more than $1,800,000 to another coin dealer who sold it to the super collector Dell Hansen. Other coins such as the 1804 Eagle are valued into the many millions of dollars, and three such examples are known to exist of that issue – and it wasn’t even struck until the 1830s! This 1820 Half Eagle has most of the characteristics of a Proof striking in a year in which a Proof has never been certified, and the kind of opportunity that presents to collectors is simply unprecedented.
In a letter from Mint Director Patterson to President James Monroe dated December 30th, 1820, he states that the Mint was an “improved state” after damage and disrepair. While Proof coinage officially started in 1821, coins preceding this that exhibited similar characteristics in the past have been called “master” coins but more appropriately today, Specimens. It would have been natural in 1820 to have wanted to show its prowess on the production of the only gold denomination that was produced.
In a day and age in which a lesser-known Da Vinci painting has now sold for more than $450 Million – the price of a unique ultra-rarity such as this seems too good to pass up for any collector with the means. Rolexes and Patek Phillippe watches have now eclipsed $17,000,000 and $24,000,000 sums respectively, and yet the world of major numismatic rarities remains an area of tremendous intrigue for many that are looking for an opportunity to acquire major rarity at prices that aren’t commensurate with other such paramount offerings in the art and watch world. We think the 1820 Half Eagle in Specimen is a fine opportunity for the connoisseur looking for one of the rarest and most beautiful coins to begin the Proof era of American gold coinage.
PCGS PR65 Price Guide: 1,500,000. No coin is actually certified as Proof though.
This coin is SPECIMEN-64 by NGC.
This is a SIX-FIGURE Coin just as a Business Strike of the Curled 2 Variety!