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SERIES: Liberty Head $5 1839-1908
LEVEL: Year, MintMark, & Major Variety

1843-O $5 Small Letters (Regular Strike)

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21.65 millimeters
Christian Gobrecht
8.24 grams
Metal Content:
90% Gold, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$69,000 • PCGS MS65 • 4-1-2008 • Heritage Auctions
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Rarity and Survival Estimates (Explain)
Grades Survival
Relative Rarity
By Type 
Relative Rarity
By Series 
All Grades 120 R-7.8 41 / 112 63 / 218 TIE
60 or Better 5 R-9.7 29 / 112 TIE 54 / 218 TIE
65 or Better 1 R-10.0 1 / 112 TIE 1 / 218 TIE
Condition Census (Explain) Show more rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS65 PCGS grade  

Stack's/Bowers 8/2011:7678, $69,000

2 MS64 PCGS grade  
2 MS64 estimated grade  
4 MS63 estimated grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  

Bowers & Merena 7/2003:2667, $14,375

Condition Census (Explain) Show fewer rows
Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS65 PCGS grade  

Stack's/Bowers 8/2011:7678, $69,000

2 MS64 PCGS grade  
2 MS64 estimated grade  
4 MS63 estimated grade  
5 MS61 PCGS grade  

Bowers & Merena 7/2003:2667, $14,375

6 MS60 PCGS grade  

American Numismatic Rarities 8/2004:1016, $9,200

6 MS60 estimated grade  
8 AU58 PCGS grade  

Heritage 1/2015:7059, $5,939.63

9 AU55 PCGS grade  
9 AU55 PCGS grade  
Gordon Wrubel: Quickfinder Notes: The Small Letters variety uses leftover reverse dies of 1842. The letter punches are about HALF the size of the Large Letter variety. The smaller letters are spaced WELL APART and farther away from the rim. The Large Letters are CLOSELY spaced with the "TAT" of STATES touching, or nearly so, at their BASES. The Small Letters variety is the scarcer by a factor of 2. Both, however, are condition rarities in Mint State.
David Akers (1975/88): The 1843-O Small Letters is a rare coin in all grades and high grade examples above EF are seldom available. I have seen a number of coins in the AU-Unc. range that had the dull matte surfaces characteristic of coins immersed a long time in salt water (the Davies-Niewoehner piece, for example) but I have never seen an original, fully lustrous uncirculated piece. Although the mintage is generally thought to be 19,075, this Small Letters variety is actually no more rare than the Large Letters variety. This may mean that the 101,075 mintage for the year was actually more evenly divided between the two varieties than is now thought to be the case.
Doug Winter: This is the first of the two varieties of half eagles produced at the New Orleans mint in 1843. It has the same reverse as found on the 1842-O half eagle with small lettering and a distinctive small, round mintmark. The mintage figure for this variety has been reported to be 19,075, but given the relative availability of the Small Letters versus the Large Letters I believe that this figure is incorrect. In the first edition of the book I suggested that the actual mintage figure for the 1843-O Small Letters was more in the area of 47,500, coins while the mintage figure for the Large Letters (reportedly 82,000) is more likely to be around 53,575 coins.

The 1843-O Small Letters half eagle is scarce in all grades. It is most frequently found in VF and EF and specimens grading AU50 to AU53 are very scarce. Higher graded AUs are rare. Until a few years ago, the 1843-O Small Letters was excessively rare in Uncirculated but there are now five or six known, including four very nice pieces from a small group uncovered in the late 1990s.

STRIKE: This is not among the better struck No Motto half eagles from the New Orleans mint. Most 1843-O Small Letters half eagles are quite weak in the centers with softness noted on the curls around the face of Liberty, the neck feathers, the top of the shield, the leg feathers and the arrow feathers.

SURFACES: The surfaces are usually very heavily abraded with deep abrasions and scuffmarks in the fields. Some coins show black scuffmarks which are unattractive. Nearly every circulated example I have seen had decidedly below average quality surfaces.

LUSTER: The luster is thick and frosty with a slightly pillowy texture on higher grade pieces as seen on some 1844-O half eagles. Many 1843-O Small Letters half eagles are worn to the point that they show little remaining luster. The few high grade pieces that are known display outstanding luster.

COLORATION: The natural coloration is a very deep green-gold hue. Some are found with a lighter orange-gold hue that is quite attractive. There are probably no more than ten to twelve known that have original color but these tend to be extremely nice.

EYE APPEAL: Most 1843-O Small Letters half eagles are seen with below average strikes. A number have weak stars and reverse lettering as well. The surfaces are usually very heavily abraded and the luster is impaired as a result. The four high grade coins found in 1999 are exceptions to this rule and they have fantastic eye appeal.

DIE CHARACTERISTICS: There are no important die characteristics noted on the 1843-O Small Letters half eagle.

MAJOR VARIETIES: There is a single die variety known, but there are a number of die states.

Variety One: All 1843-O Small Letters half eagles have a large date that slants downwards. The reverse is the same as on the 1842-O half eagle.

State I: The stars are sharply defined and there are no reverse cracks.

State II: Stars seven and eight show some weakness and there is an obverse crack from the rim through star twelve and into the right field. The tops of the letters in UNITED and RICA in AMERICA are weak and some faint cracks can be seen around the tops of many of the letters.

State III: The weakness on the stars now extends from the seventh through the tenth. The reverse cracks through the letters are more pronounced and the tops of the letters have been weakened considerably.