Incredible 1832 12-Stars Half Eagle, Choice Mint State, Only Coin Seen by PCGS

1832 half eagle. 12 Stars, Curved-Base 2. BD-2. Rarity-7+. MS-63 (PCGS).

Some notes from Dave Bowers:

This incredible 1832 12 Stars half eagle is one of my very favorite coins in the D. Brent Pogue Collection. I have always had a soft spot for early 19th century coins with the wrong number of stars. These include the readily available 1828 half cent with 12 stars instead of 13 and the wonderful 1817 copper cent, Newcomb-16, with too many stars—15 instead of 13. Ever since I was a kid I have considered this to be one of my favorites. Not too long ago—and don’t tell anyone—I was the successful bidder for the beautiful Mint State coin in our Twin Leaf Collection sale, the only one I have ever seen with a generous amount of original mint red (and I have been looking at these for over 60 years!).

The other—the ultimate—in the series with incorrect stars is the 1832 half eagle. If I had bought 1,000 Berkshire Hathaway shares at $6 each some years ago no one would be able to outbid me on this coin when it crosses the block in May. But, alas, just as a cat can look at a king, I can and have looked at this coin, but will not be the owner. Perhaps if I were a bit younger than 77 years the situation would be different.

In was a pleasure to describe this coin in 2014 for Treasures from the D. Brent Pogue Rare Coin Cabinet. If you don’t own a copy of this book, you should! See below. Or, you can borrow a copy free from the American Numismatic Association Library in Colorado Springs. My point is: you’ll enjoy reading about 100 of America’s greatest coins and the stories that go with them.

At this point I switch my comments to include some of the remarks I made in the book about this 1832 half eagle with only 12 stars:

This exceedingly rare and very beautiful coin from the Byron Reed Collection was cataloged by Christie’s in 1996: "A few scattered marks on the reverse, otherwise Mint State, lustrous and sharp."

Only six examples have been recorded. Two of these are in the Smithsonian Institution—one added to the Mint Cabinet in 1883 and the other holed and plugged from the Josiah K. Lilly estate bequest (earlier described as holed in the Jenks Collection, 1921). This leaves just four in private hands. The D. Brent Pogue Collection coin represents one of the most important opportunities known to our generation. It is so rare that PCGS has not seen another in any grade! Imagine that! Incredible!

Its desirability is further enhanced by the obverse error. The engraver, probably William Kneass but possibly a helper, forgot one star!

Notes: Over the years very little about the 1832 12-Stars half eagle has appeared in print, due to its extreme rarity. Here are some past citations for other specimens:

In his July 14, 1913, Catalogue of the Large and Valuable Collection of United States Coins of Mr. H.O. Granberg, B. Max Mehl offered an example with this description:

1832 Liberty head as on preceding lot but of slightly different die and twelve stars instead of thirteen. The stars are larger and entirely differently spaced than on the other variety of this date. Border is wider and the 2 is with curved base. Reverse is also of an entirely different die; the words in U.S. OF AMERICA are all more compact. Very Fine. Exceedingly rare. And to the best of my knowledge this is the first specimen ever offered at auction and I doubt if there is another specimen now known, as out of more than twenty leading numismatists of the U.S. to whom I inquired regarding this coin, only two, Messrs. Woodin and Proskey of New York, knew of the existence of this variety. The other numismatists advised that they had never before heard of it. Of equal rarity and value with any half eagle.

It turned out that William H. Woodin, who was working on a manuscript on early half eagles, owned another example and exhibited it at the American Numismatic Society Exhibition in January 1914. In his June 1946 catalog of the William Cutler Atwater Collection, which included an Extremely Fine coin, Mehl said this:

      1832. The exceedingly rare variety with twelve stars on obverse. The figure 2 in date is with curled base. Extremely fine with traces of original luster. Of greatest rarity! Of all the great collections sold at auction in this country, records of which I have extending back to nearly one hundred years, I find only one record of sale. That was in the sale of H.O. Granberg, conducted by me in July, 1913. When I first discovered this variety I thought I was "seeing things." Fortunately at that time I had the thirteen-star variety in the same sale, so on comparing the two I found that the obverse die was entirely different. It was described in the Granberg catalog as follows…

As mentioned above, I can find no record of a specimen of this great rarity having been offered at auction other than the one I offered in the Granberg Collection. I have had occasion to examine the Clapp Collection at Washington and it did not contain a specimen of this rarity. The Colonel Green Collection, which contained several duplicates of all great rarities, including the 1798 with small eagle, only had one perfect specimen of this coin, the identical one sold by me in the Granberg Sale to Mr. Newcomer, whose collection of United States gold and silver coins I handled in 1933 at private sale, and the specimen in the Colonel Green Collection was acquired of me. So, to the best of my knowledge, after an exhaustive research, there are only two specimens of this rarity known to exist. In point of actual rarity, it is on a par with ANY U.S. gold coin, including the 1822 half-eagle. [Today: Well, close, but not quite!]

The Atwater coin was acquired by Louis E. Eliasberg. In our sale of his United States Gold Coin Collection in 1982 it was featured as lot 393.

As noted above, today six specimens are known to exist.

Provenance: Lorin G. Parmelee Collection; New York Coin and Stamp Company’s (H.P. Smith and David Proskey) sale of the Lorin G. Parmelee Collection, June 1890, lot 1013; Byron Reed Collection; City of Omaha, by descent, 1891; Christie’s / Spink America’s sale of the Byron Reed Collection, October 1996, lot 120.



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