When John Work Garrett first purchased this remarkable coin from Haseltine’s 69th sale in January 1884, he had already recognized it as something not only beautiful but entirely unique. Never before had rumors circulated among numismatists of a Proof from this Southern branch mint, and the opportunity to acquire such a rarity would probably come but once in a lifetime. True to form, Garrett bought the coin and held on to it for the remainder of his life – the coin then resided in the celebrated Garrett Collection until 1976, living its well-pampered life as a Proof!
Just how this rarity came about is a mystery. A good rule of thumb is that all branch mint Specimen or Proof strikings are extremely rare, in many cases unique, and they were usually produced for a special occasion – such as the opening of the Denver Mint in 1906, on occasion for which a handful of branch mint Proofs of the date were struck. However, the existence of this unique Specimen 1843-D half eagle cannot be specifically tied to any event on the timeline that corresponds with the date of the coin.
Taking a cue from our cataloger in describing this branch mint rarity, we note here that: “The surfaces are incredible for such an early United States coin, especially one struck in the rustic conditions that prevailed in the Dahlonega Mint during the 1840s. The devices show considerable frost on the central areas as well as the date, stars, lettering and even the D mintmark. These features stand tall against fully reflective, mirror-like fields. Hints of faint copper-gold toning are noted near the rims, particularly on the reverse, which accents add charm and elegance to this prized rarity.” The coin is obviously as lovely as it is rare!
When all known third-party certified 1843-D half eagles are considered, the present coin comes out head and shoulders above the rest for overall quality and status. Not only is it unique as the only Specimen of any date or denomination from the Dahlonega Mint certified by NGC or any of the other certification services, it is also the finest graded 1843-D half eagle by a factor of one point, outshining a handful of MS-64 examples of the date, and unique in that way as well.
As with so many other great rarities we have offered in the past, the Gem Specimen-65 1843-D half eagle in our upcoming Philadelphia ANA Auction meets all the criteria for numismatic fame: the coin is unique both by virtue of manufacturing and by its stand-alone grade, and it is a pleasure to behold. Add the allure and lore of one of our nation’s most cherished Southern branch mints, and the coin reaches a height that borders on numismatic legend. There can only be one steward at a time of this unique Dahlonega Mint half eagle, and we’re sure you’ll keep that in mind when the bidding excitement begins!