US Coins

Market Analysis: One of four known 1854-S $5 half eagles

One of the rarest and most enigmatic coins offered in the 2021 American Numismatic Association auctions was an 1854-S Coronet gold $5 half eagle graded Extremely Fine 45 by Professional Coin Grading Service.

It is one of just four known examples, one of which is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

The offered coin was recently discovered by a New England collector and was last offered at Heritage’s 2018 ANA auction, where, prior to the auction, “Several respected numismatists had been asking whether this might be the coin stolen from Willis du Pont in 1967,” Heritage wrote, explaining, “Heritage knew the integrity of the coin’s title needed to be clear to everyone. With all of that in mind, and before auctioning this coin, Heritage contacted Willis du Pont and explained the situation,” with the consignor and du Pont entering into a written agreement where du Pont disclaimed any present or future ownership interest in the coin.

It realized $2.16 million in that 2018 offering, and in 2021 it brought $2.4 million in Heritage’s Aug. 18 Platinum Night session. The issue pre-dates interest in collecting by Mint marks, and examples were not in any known 19th century numismatic collection, yet, Heritage writes, “It is something of a sleeper among the great gold rarities of the U.S. federal series.”

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