1878 Pattern Half Eagle
Adams-Woodin = Judd 1576 = Pollock 1769
Rarity: Very Rare
Metal content: Copper
Images courtesy of Ira
& Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.
1. PCGS Proof-66 Brown (illustrated
above). Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins &
Collectibles, Inc.'s "The California Sale", October 2-3,
2000, Lot 601, where it was described (in part) as follows: "A
stunning pattern half eagle which is struck in copper, and unlike
most of the others, was not gilt. The surfaces are outstanding,
resplendent beyond description, and the colors, deep mahogany with
hints of blue and red exude originality seldom seen in the last half
century. We know that this coin has been tucked away for over 60
years in a private collection, most had forgotten about its
existence. Furthermore, most of the few known of this pattern have
been gilt, and are thus gold in color from the plating process. In
the Pollock reference we note that the Smithsonian is trying to
corner the market on this pattern, they apparently have 3 of them!
Others have been tied up for many years in foundations, which have
recently been sold. In the recent PCGS Population Report,
only 3 have been graded, one PR-63 Red, a PR-65 Red and brown and
this superb PR-66 Brown. For all intents and purposes, this is
clearly the finest known of the few available, and one of the very
few original copper pieces that has not been gilt. This
pattern was designed by William Barber, the obverse head of Liberty
facing left and wearing a large cap (not unlike the then new Morgan
silver dollar), with a band inscribed LIBERTY. Her cap is ornamented
with two wheat ears, and her hair curls cascade below her shoulders.
Thirteen stars are arranged seven on the left and six right, and
separated by the motto IN GOD WE TRUST at the top in tiny letters.
On the reverse, we completely agree with the description of this
pattern issue given by the cataloger at Bowers and Merena in the
Harry Bass, Jr., Sale I (lot 1375) where the term "Ugly
Eagle" was coined. The eagle's left wing (viewers right) is
grossly disproportionate to its body, and the right wing is
similarly too large. Even the branch is much too big from a
proportion standpoint when compared with the size of a bald eagle.
The upper arrowhead is incomplete, and everything about this reverse
loudly states "rush job" or engraved by a trainee. Above
the eagle is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM which staggers across the
field as if it can't make up its mind to be in a slight arc, or on a
straight line. Around the eagle is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FIVE
DOLLARS below. All devices are very sharply struck, and this coin is
superbly preserved. If Barber was involved in engraving this
reverse, he was having what must have been a very off day--even for
him--and we can easily see why this new design was not adopted."