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Landmark 1822 Half Eagle Only One in Private Hands, An American Treasure

By Q. David Bowers, Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Friday, April 01, 2016 / Categories: Highlights from the D. Brent Pogue Collection

​If there is one coin in the D. Brent Pogue Collection that you may never see again at auction in your lifetime it is the 1822 half eagle. This coin, the finest known, is legendary. It is the only example in private hands of what is acknowledged as the key to a collection of American gold coins. We invite you to be part of numismatic history as a bidder, interested observer, or the to-be-famous buyer when Part IV of the Pogue Collection will be held on Tuesday, May 24. The venue is Sotheby's International Headquarters in New York City.

There have been only two occasions in American numismatic history in which an 1822 half eagle has sold at auction! They are:

In 1906 at the H.P. Smith Collection Sale

In 1982 at our sale of the Louis E. Eliasberg Gold Coin Collection Sale.

A notable offering took place sometime before 1941, the year that B. Max Mehl showcased an 1822 half eagle in his William Forrester Dunham Sale with this headline:

"The rarest and Most Valuable Coin in the Entire United States series! (Probably the Rarest Coin in the World). The 1822 $5.00 Gold!"

It never crossed the auction block! No bidders had a chance! It was so important to Mehl and so valuable that he sold it privately before the sale to Charles O. Williams, a Cincinnati insurance executive. That coin later passed to Josiah K. Lilly of pharmaceutical fame, and is one of two in the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian Institution, the other being from the Mint Cabinet Collection and there since the 1830s. Certified as AU-50 by PCGS, the Pogue coin is the finest of the three.

In his 1979 study, United States Gold Coins, An Analysis of Auction Records, Volume IV, Half Eagles 1795-1929, David Akers made this definitive statement: "The legendary 1822 half eagle is the most famous and desirable United States gold coin. It traded hands at fantastic prices when other great rarities that are now worth six figures were bringing mere pittances."

In a word the 1822 half eagle is legendary. Most of the great figures in American numismatic history never owned one! Many if not most have been born and died without ever having had the chance compete for one at auction. J.P. Morgan, who had unlimited finances and who later gave much of his coin collection to the American Numismatic Society, desired to own an 1822 half eagle and offered a tremendous sum for the Dunham coin—multiples of any price any coin had ever sold for anywhere in the world—but was refused.

Today the 1822 half eagle stands at the peak of American rarities in private hands—with just one coin available. As noted, the only previous auction sales took place in 1906 and 1982. Once the Pogue Collection coin changes hands, will generations pass without even the most well-financed collectors, dealers, and museums having an opportunity to own one?

As a tribute to this rarity we published an award-winning book by Q. David Bowers, The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity, which gives in detail the fascinating history of this famous coin, including much additional information on the world of numismatics from the 19th century onward. We guarantee it will keep you absorbed and entertained for an evening or two of reading.

 

A Special Invitation

For more information on the Pogue Collection:

Limited-edition catalogs of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part IV are being prepared and will be available for purchase while supplies last. Limit: one per person. To order, call 800-458-4646.

 

Also available are two deluxe hardbound books about the Pogue Collection.

 

Treasures from the D. Brent Pogue Rare Coin Cabinet, by Q. David Bowers. 208 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. This tells the stories of 100 special coins from the collection. $39.95 plus shipping. Personally autographed by Dave on request.

 

The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity, by Q. David Bowers.  128 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. $39.95 plus shipping. This also contains a wealth of information about other coins, people, places, and things—a "you are there" experience. Personally autographed by Dave on request.

For more information or to order visit http://media.stacksbowers.com/poguecollection/pogue-the-books.html