The 1807 Capped Bust half eagle in our upcoming New Orleans ANA Auction Sale, May 7-11, is graded MS-65 in an NGC holder, and is about as nice as you are apt to find. If you want to own an impressive and nearly flawless example of this important first-year issue, we suggest that you bid on the gorgeous Gem example that we offer next week in historic New Orleans.
Astonishing mint frost radiates from the beautiful yellow-gold surfaces of this example from the first year of John Reich's Capped Bust design, with his signature final star with the familiar notch in one of the star arms. The motifs are struck with exacting, nearly full completeness on both sides, including the finer details of Liberty's hair curls and the eagle's leg feathers, talons, and arrow fletchings. Only the dentils show a few select areas of striking softness. This specimen rates near the top of the NGC Census as one of the top five coins of this date that they have ever seen.
This is a later die state of this pairing, with thin evidence of die clashing on the obverse from the shield around Liberty's ear, the wing of the eagle on her neck and into the left field, and the scroll above the date faintly outlined. Two other features are noted: the U of UNITED is slightly repunched low, seen on the upper left serif, and a shallow die line above the first A of AMERICA. It is remarkable that this die pairing produced an incredible number of coins for this year. Furthermore, the reverse die went on to strike even more coins in 1808. Rarely did early dies hold up as well as these, most suffered from various cracks and clashing episodes that soon ended their service. While available in circulated or technically lower Mint State grades, there is only a handful of surviving coins today than can claim this Gem level of preservation.
In 1807, the Philadelphia Mint hired a new and talented engraver by the name of John Reich, whose initial task was to redesign our coinage. The two primary denominations in circulation in 1807 (for banking and reserves) were the half eagle and half dollar, and these designs were the first he addressed. On both of these denominations Liberty is adorned with a cap upon her head, rather than on a pole as seen on some of our early copper coinage, and a new style of cap than seen on our early gold coinage. Reich's designs were well received and soon were employed on other denominations. The still primitive coining equipment of that era caused difficulty in fully striking Reich's designs, and attempts to mitigate this problem are seen in the various reverse rotations on most denominations. The striking problems continued well into the 1830s on the larger diameter coins (cent, half dollar, dollar, half eagle, eagle) until the steam press was finally obtained and put into service for these larger diameter coins starting in 1836.