No Motto Half Eagles From the 1840’s
A Date by Date Analysis
By Doug Winter
mint began producing the familiar Liberty Head
half eagle design in 1839. After a quick
modification in 1840, this issue continued
without change until 1866 when the motto IN GOD
WE TRUST was added to the reverse.
The branch mint No Motto half eagles from the
1840’s are very popular with collectors. But
their Philadelphia counterparts have lagged
behind, both in price and level of demand. I
would not be surprised to see this change a bit
over the coming years given the fact that the
Philadelphia issues are much more affordable and
a complete “by decade” set from the 1840’s is
within the budget of most gold coin collectors.
Here is a date by date analysis of the
Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s, to
assist new collectors.
1840: Mintage: 137,822.
This is one of the more common issues from this
decade. There an estimated 400-500+ known and
they are easily located in all circulated
grades. In Uncirculated, the 1840 is scarce. I
believe that there are around fifteen to twenty
known with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. There
is one Gem. It is originally ex Pittman I: 947
where it brought $41,250 as a raw coin. It last
appeared as Heritage 2/06: 1853 where it sold
for $43,125. It has been graded MS65 by both
PCGS and NGC.
There are two varieties known. The more common
has a Narrow Mill (or diameter) while the
scarcer has a Broad Mill. The Broad Mill variety
seems to be considerably harder to find in
higher grades, especially in Uncirculated. The
Broad Mill has an extremely distinct appearance
and it is much easier to distinguish from the
Narrow Mill than on the New Orleans and
Dahlonega issues of this year.
1841: Mintage: 15,833.
The number of half eagles produced at the
Philadelphia mint in 1841 is the fewest of the
decade. This is the second scarcest date in this
subset but it has an interesting grade
distribution. There are an estimated 125-150
known and this issue is generally seen in
Extremely Fine or in the MS62 to MS64 range.
There was a hoard of 1841 half eagles that was
found a few decades ago. Most are in the MS63 to
MS64 range and are characterized by sharp
strikes, excellent luster and rich golden
coloration. I have personally seen at least four
MS64 examples and believe that there are a few
more known. In all, probably 10 to 15 exist in
Uncirculated. The finest is Bowers and Merena
12/04: 2635, graded MS65 by NGC, which sold for
a record-setting $27,600. PCGS has not graded
any pieces higher than MS64 and their current
listing of eight examples is certainly inflated
1842: Mintage: 27,432.
The 1842 is far and away the scarcest
Philadelphia half eagle from this decade and it
is an issue that is comparable in rarity to all
but a handful of the branch mint half eagles
from this era. There are two distinct varieties
known: the Small Letters and the Large Letters.
Small Letters: This is the rarer of the two 1842
half eagles and it is by far the hardest coin to
find in the Philadelphia half eagle series from
the 1840’s. I regard it as one of the most
underrated coins in the whole Liberty Head half
eagle series. There are probably not more than
fifty or so known with most in the VF to EF
range. I doubt if more than ten exist in About
Uncirculated. In Uncirculated, I am aware of
just one piece, the Pittman I: 957 coin (which
sold for a relatively cheap $17,600 back in
1997). I believe it appears as both an MS63 and
an MS64 in the PCGS Population Report.
Large Letters: This is the more available of the
two varieties but it is still a very scarce coin
in all grades. There are as many as 75-100
extant with most in the VF to EF range. Properly
graded AU examples are quite rare with probably
no more than fifteen known. This variety is very
rare in AU55 to AU58 and it appears to be unique
in Uncirculated. The finest known is ex Milas:
442 and it is currently in a PCGS MS66 (it was
once graded MS65 by PCGS). This is one of those
“how the heck does that actually exist” coins
and I would have to think it would be a
six-figure item today if it came onto the
1843: Mintage: 611,205.
Beginning with this issue, the half eagle
mintage figures from Philadelphia increased
dramatically and this denomination became a
workhorse issue in commerce. The 1843 is
actually a bit scarcer than its large mintage
figure would suggest. There are at least
750-1000+ in all grades; possibly quite a bit
more when one factors in low-quality or damaged
pieces. In all circulated grades this date is
easily available although choice, original
AU58’s are becoming harder to find. In
Uncirculated there are an estimated three dozen
known. I have never seen a Gem and just two or
three that I regard as MS64. The highest graded
is an NGC MS65 that sold as Lot 3380 in the
Goldberg 9/09 auction for $25,300. The nicest I
can recall was the Milas coin.
This issue has a distinctive appearance with
most displaying frosty luster which is typically
interrupted by extensive surface abrasions. The
natural coloration ranges from deep orange-gold
to a medium green-gold shade. Most are well
struck and well produced.
1844: Mintage: 340,330.
This is a scarcer date than the 1843, which
makes sense given its smaller mintage. There are
at least 500-750+ in all grades but, as with all
of these higher mintage issues from the 1840’s,
there might be hoards overseas or large numbers
of lower grade coins of which I am not aware.
The 1844 is relatively available in Uncirculated
with around three to four dozen known; mostly in
the MS60 to MS62 range. This date is scarce in
MS63, very rare in MS64 and exceedingly rare in
Gem. By far the best I have seen is Stack’s
5/05: 1692, graded MS65 by PCGS, which brought
$50,025. That coin, by the way, is one of the
two or three best No Motto half eagles of any
date that I am aware.
The 1844 half eagle is a well produced issue
that can be found with excellent frosty luster,
attractive rich green-gold color and a nice,
sharp strike. Some pieces have excessive marks
on the surfaces but the patient collector should
be able to locate a really nice piece at an
1845: Mintage: 417,099.
The 1845 is similar in overall rarity to the
1844. There are an estimated 500-750+. This is a
more common date in higher grades than the 1844
with as many as four to five dozen extant in
Uncirculated. Most grade in the MS60 to MS62
range. This is a rare issue in properly graded
MS63 and an extremely rare one in MS64 with
perhaps as few as four or five known. I am not
aware of any Gem 1845 half eagles. The two best
that I can recall seeing are Bass II: 943,
graded MS64 by PCGS, which sold for $16,100 in
October 1999 and Milas: 458, graded MS64 by NGC,
which sold for $17,100 all the way back in
This is another issue that is generally seen
well made. Higher grade examples can show
excellent thick, frosty luster and the natural
coloration is often a very handsome medium to
deep greenish-gold or canary yellow-gold.
1846: Mintage: 395,942.
In my experience, the 1846 is a tougher date
than the 1843, 1844 or 1845. It is typically
seen in lower grades than these other three
issues and it is quite a bit scarcer in higher
grades. There are around 500-700+ known. Two
major varieties exist.
Large Date: This is by far the more common of
the two varieties. It is common in VF and EF
grades and only slightly scarce in the lower AU
range. It becomes fairly scarce in AU58 and it
is rare in Uncirculated. I have never personally
seen one better than MS63 and only one or two in
this grade. There are a number of MS63 and MS64
examples from the S.S. New York which have
Small Date: This is the scarcer of the two
varieties. It has only been recognized by PCGS
for a few years so the population figures are a
bit on the low side. I think it is at least two
to three times scarcer than the Large Date in
circulated grades and much scarcer in
Uncirculated. The highest graded 1846 Small Date
is Stack’s 7/08: 2068, graded MS63 by NGC. It is
from the S.S. New York and has sweater surfaces.
It sold for $18,975.
1847: Mintage: 915,981.
The 1847 is the most common Philadelphia No
Motto half eagle from the 1840’s by a fairly
considerable margin. There are at least
1,500-2,500+ known in all grades and this
estimate may actually be quite conservative. It
is common in all circulated grades and fairly
available in the lowest Uncirculated range with
around 150-200 extant in Mint State. This date
becomes scarce in MS63 and it is very rare in
MS64. The finest known is a remarkable PCGS MS66
that is ex ANR 11/04: 1804 ($92,000), Pittman I:
981 ($110,000). A strong case could be made for
calling this the finest No Motto half eagle of
There are a number of interesting varieties
known. A few exist with repunching on the date
numerals, including one with a sharply repunched
7. There is also a fascinating misplaced date
variety with a 7 located in the denticles well
below the date. There is also a very interesting
variety with the 7 punched in the throat of
1848: Mintage: 260,775.
The number of half eagles made in 1848 is
significantly less than in 1847 and this date is
much scarcer. An estimated 500-700+ are known
with most in the EF40 to AU50 range. Nice higher
end AU coins are somewhat scarce and this date
in rare in Uncirculated with two to three dozen
known. The two best I am aware of are Bass II:
986 (graded MS64 by PCGS) that brought $24,150
in October 1999 and Milas: 471, graded MS64 by
NGC, that sold for $23,100 in October 1999.
The appearance of this date tends to be
different than that seen on the 1846 and 1847
half eagles. The surfaces are more striated
(mint-made) and the luster is less “pillowy” and
a bit more satiny in texture. The natural color
is often a rich reddish-gold or orange-gold hue,
unlike some of the earlier dates from this
decade which are more green-gold in hue.