100 Greatest U.S. Coins Series: 1832 "12 Stars" Capped Head Half Eagle

Early gold coins are often rare, especially before the 1900s. The Half Eagle series that began in 1807 is certainly proof of that. Beginning with the Capped Bust design ranging from 1807-1812 and ending with the Capped Head design from 1813-1834, the series provides some of the rarest varieties in coins, not just half eagles. In fact, advanced collectors are really the ones who end up locating coins of this nature.

Following along in the journey of our blog series focusing on Whitman Publishing’s fourth edition of the 100 Greatest United States Coins, we dive deeper into a coin from the half eagle series. With author Jeff Garrett in addition to Ron Guth taking the reigns of this compiled list, we are going to explore a variety of half eagles that have just five or six known across the board as far as all grades are concerned.

#96 - 1832 “12 Stars” Capped Head Half Eagle

Designed by John Reich with modifications made by the Second Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, William Kneass, the half eagle series features a portrait of Liberty surrounded by stars on the obverse. The more easily acquired half eagle features 13 stars, but overlooked because of its rarity is the obverse featuring just 12 stars. This coin has made its way into the top 100 of this series due in large part to the fact that there are only five or six known across all grades.

Due to a Mint blunder as a result of the engraver punching the stars widely and leaving room for only 12 stars instead of 13, there have only been two of this variety sold at auction in recent years. One of the coins was in Uncirculated condition and came from the Byron Reed collection. That coin sold for a little less than $300,000 in 1996. An Extra Fine condition sold just two years later at $159,000.

This coin in an Extremely Fine condition had a value of $3,500 in 1960. In the latest edition of this publication, that same coin values at $300,000.