It is actually fairly easy to overlook half dimes. The half dime has not been in production since 1873 and no one alive today has ever seen one in regular use.
It is hard to know just what the problem was back in 1846, but we do know that the Philadelphia facility produced some very low mintage coins that year.
The 1846 half dime has to get an award as really being underrated as its mintage was just 27,000 pieces and that was ridiculously low even back in 1846.
To appreciate what a mintage like 27,000 meant in 1846 it must be remembered that half dimes were in heavy use and half dime mintages were generally high. While half dime mintages were not always large or regular, there is no question it was a heavily used denomination.
At Philadelphia during the 1840s the half dime mintages would top 1 million pieces in 1840, 1841, 1843, 1845, 1847 and again in 1849 and in 1842 the total was over 800,000. In fact during the entire decade the only two times Philadelphia did not top 500,000 half dimes were 430,000 pieces in 1844 and 27,000 in 1846.
It is hard to know what prompted that mintage and with just 27,000 pieces being produced it is also very difficult to estimate how many were actually saved at the time. It was an awkward period when there were a few proofs produced for collectors, with the best estimate on 1846 half dimes being perhaps 20 pieces, and unlike proofs of the 1880s they have little impact on the top grade supply today. At the Professional Coin Grading Service they have only seen three 1846 half dime proofs and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports only one.
Just how elusive the 1846 half dime is today is not an easy question to answer. If you check at NGC they have seen just 20 coins not counting the one proof and of those 20 only one, an MS-62, was in Mint State. At PCGS the total is another 38 coins with a single MS-63 and an MS-62 being the only two in Mint State.
Take those totals and consider the price of the 1846 today, which is $410 in G-4 and $11,500 in MS-60.
It will cost you $77,500 to buy an MS-65 1911-D quarter eagle yet there are a couple dozen of them known.
For the same $11,500 you could get an MS-65 Trade dollar and PCGS has seen 15 of them and another seven in higher grades. It is also possible that demand for a Trade dollar in MS-65 is not much higher than demand for an MS-60 half dime.
Certainly the numbers are interesting for the 1846 especially in Mint State. At today’s prices, the 1846 is a solid deal.