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Most 1929 half eagles melted down

If you go back to 1929, you find that the 1929 Indian Head half eagle had a fairly large 662,000 mintage. Under normal conditions, that would make its VF-20 prices today about $390. After all, since 1908, there were 17 dates with lower mintages. That would, by all, normal standards, make the 1929 an available date.

Many 1929 half eagles were melted down, though uncirculated examples were saved in numbers.

Many 1929 half eagles were melted down, though uncirculated examples were saved in numbers.

It was 1929 when the stock market crashed and the beginning of the “Great Depression.” The situation would go from bad to worse with each passing year and collecting is not immune from such major economic events.

The large mintage of the 1929 is interesting. It might well reflect official belief that there would be a run on gold and, in fact, there was in the 1930s. What made the mintage of the 1929 Indian Head half eagle so interesting is that all signs suggest that the use of gold half eagles had just about ceased. There had not been a half eagle minted since 1916 after years of fairly regular mintages.

Of course, if there had been a run on gold, we might expect the 1929 to be more available in circulated grades as it lists for $11,750 just in VF-20. Some might have been paid out, but it appears that when Americans showed up at their banks to get gold coins for security at the time, they failed to ask for half eagles, probably opting instead for larger eagles and double eagle coins.

What we suspect is that the 1929 was sitting in the vaults when the Gold Recall Order of 1933 was issued. It makes perfect sense as almost all of the 662,000 mintage just vanished. That is not normal at all but it is normal for gold coins produced in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

We cannot be certain how many examples of the 1929 were melted as records were not kept by date. Certainly it would be the most likely half eagle melted as it was the last one produced.

What is interesting today is that the price of the 1929 in MS-60 stands at $29,000 while in MS-65 it is at $88,500. That sounds expensive but, for an Indian Head half eagle, it is not that expensive as a couple of dates are over $200,000 and a couple more are $100,000. You must remember the Indian Head half eagle has a terrible time reaching MS-65 because the field was the highest part of the design and that meant problems in the field are ordinary because of stacking. No matter how available, no Indian Head half eagle is available in MS-65 so the price of the 1929 is not high in MS-65 even though it is $2,500 more than any other date of the set in VF-20.

If we check the grading services, we find a most interesting situation. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded 228 examples of the 1929 and a remarkable total of six were MS-65 while the Professional Coin Grading Service has graded 330 with eight in MS-65.

What we can take from those numbers is that the 1929 did see little circulation. What they say as well is that the 1929 might have come back from a foreign bank in small numbers in a lower uncirculated grade. The other option is that when people got gold from the banks in the 1930s, it was not used, which could be the case as, if you can afford a 1929, it is likely to be Mint State.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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