Gold Half Eagle
By Doug Winter
acquired one of the two or three finest known
examples of this date (a PCGS AU58 that is
illustrated below) I thought it would be
interesting to share some information about one
of my favorite half eagles from this mint.
The 1878-CC is among the rarest Carson City half
eagles, both in terms of overall and high grade
rarity. It is not nearly as well known as the
1870-CC and it doesn’t have the cult following
that the rare and undervalued 1873-CC has. That
said, it is still a coin that is very well
respected by specialists.
A total of 9,054 were struck. When I wrote the
second edition of my book “Gold Coins of the
Carson City Mint” back in 2001, I estimated that
there were just 60-70 known in all grades. A
decade later this estimate seems a bit on the
low side and I’d probably revise the total
number known up to the area of 75-100.
As of May 2010, PCGS has graded a total of 64
examples in all grades with none in Uncirculated
and a total of twenty in About Uncirculated
including five each in AU55 and AU58. NGC has a
total of 48 in all grades with one in
Uncirculated (more on this in a second) and
nineteen in AU including five each in AU55 and
AU58. My previous estimate of just three to five
known in About Uncirculated now seems very low
but I believe that the PCGS and NGC populations
for AU are significantly inflated by
resubmissions. My best guess is that there are
around ten or so properly graded AU’s known
A few years ago, an example graded MS63PL
appeared on the NGC population report. I have
never seen this coin and am assuming it is a
data entry error. If it does actually exist, it
is one of the most significant Carson City half
eagles in existence and it is a coin that I
would really like to view in person.
The finest 1878-CC Carson City half eagles that
I have seen are a small number (around three or
four) that grade AU58 by today’s standards. The
all-time auction record for this date is Stack’s
5/08: 4235, graded AU58 by PCGS, that brought
The 1878-CC half eagle has a very recognizable
“look” and it is an issue that can be
distinguished from the Philadelphia and San
Francisco half eagles dated 1878 with relative
The 1878-CC has a somewhat fuzzy strike unlike
the Philadelphia and San Francisco half eagles
of this year which are very sharply impressed.
This fuzziness is most evident around the
borders and the denticles on a number of pieces
are not fully formed. A number have significant
weakness at 4:00 and 7:00 on the obverse border.
This is a hard issue to find with good luster.
One of the things about the PCGS AU58 that is
special for this issue is the fact that the
luster is frosty and visible. This is clearly
not the case on most 1878-CC half eagles which
are not lustrous and have been stripped by
processing. The coin shown above has some
scattered marks in the fields bt these are fewer
than usual for the issue.
The PCGS AU58 1878-CC half eagle shown in the
photo above will be available for sale in a few
weeks along with some other remarkable Condition
Census CC half eagles from the same collection.
For information on any of these coins please
contact me via email at email@example.com.
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