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Press Release - March 1, 2006
Unique Specimen Floyd Starr Half-Disme to be Auctioned!
Dallas, Texas: "Regardless of grade, the ownership of a 1792 half disme clearly indicates that the numismatist is a connoisseur of American coinage," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auction Galleries. "Despite opinions to the contrary, this issue is the first circulating American coin struck under authority of the Mint Act of April 1792."
"A storied and exciting piece of American coinage, the 1792 half disme is inextricably linked with the birth of America as a sovereign nation," Rohan said. "The coins were minted outside the confines of the first US Mint, which was not ready at the time to be put into operation. In fact, it has been reliably determined that the coins were actually struck by John Harper, a saw maker, at the behest of none other than Thomas Jefferson who, as Department of State in 1792, also had charge of the nation's Mint. Jefferson ordered the coins made on July 11, 1792, and took delivery of them on July 13, 1792, when his datebook reads, 'Recd. From the Mint 1500 half dimes of the new coinage.'"
"It's been suggested that the half dismes were never intended as actually currency," Rohan said, "but this is belied by statements President George Washington himself made in his November 6, 1792 National address. The President stated: 'In execution of authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our Mint. Others have been employed at home. Provisions have been made for the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dimes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.' Clearly, from Washington's comments we can deduce that these coins were intended to circulate."
"The half disme has been the subject of many false and unsubstantiated claims that have appeared in print in the years since its mintage," Rohan said. "Among such claims is one that suggests Martha Washington posed as 'Miss Liberty' for the engraver. Another claim that remains unsupported is that the Washingtons provided their family table service for the coinage."
"The half disme offered here, from the Floyd Starr collection," Rohan continued, "is probably the finest known example, and it is certified by PCGS as a Specimen strike, the only such piece to receive this designation. It is a spectacular, fully struck coin. All of Liberty's hair details are fully defined, and the eagle's plumage is equally well brought up. From the details on this piece, it is obvious that special care was taken to strike this coin at least twice. The design features on both sides are nicely centered with full obverse and reverse border details. Care was also taken to polish the surfaces as each side displays light die striations in the fields and across the central device on the obverse. Both obverse and reverse display a multitude of speckled colors with bright reflectivity around the peripheral lettering on the obverse. The toning has been variously described as orange-crimson and lilac, and as blue, gray, and light gold. There is only one surface flaw that we see: a shallow, vertical scratch in the left obverse field. The reverse has two faint vertical die cracks, approximately parallel, through the right field. One extends from the right base of A(M) to the eagle's wing and F in HALF. The other begins at the left base of the adjacent M, also through the eagle's wing, and on to the right side of E in DISME."
Rohan continued, "In an accompanying letter from David Hall, President and Founder of PCGS, he briefly reviews the history of the 1792 half disme, then discusses this specific coin, saying: 'Today approximately 250 to 400 1792 half dismes survive, most of them in well worn condition. Miraculously, there are a handful of Mint State examples known. The finest of these is the coin from the Floyd Starr collection.'"
"Given its obvious specimen status," Rohan said, "this might well have been the very first United States coin actually released by the Treasury Department, perhaps a special gift to a friend of the U.S. or even to George Washington himself. That notwithstanding, this is, by its very nature, an important piece of American history, and will be the pride of even the most advanced collection."
Heritage Auction Galleries will offer the 1792 H10C Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4. SP67 PCGS in their upcoming Signature Auction, to be held April 26-29, 2006 as the official auctioneer of the Central States Numismatic Society's 2006 Convention, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, located at 400 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio.
Images, descriptions, and prices realized from all of Heritage's previous auctions are available in the Permanent Auction Archives at the Heritage website.
To reserve your copy of a catalog for any upcoming Heritage auction, please contact Nicole Jewell, c/o Heritage Auction Galleries, 3500 Maple Avenue, 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219, or call 1-800-872-6467, ext. 272.