Superlative 1821 O-103 Half, SP671821 50C SP67 NGC. O-103, R.2. From our January 2008 FUN Platinum Night sale, lot 2868, cataloged as NGC MS66. After considerable floor bidding from several knowledgeable experts, the coin sold for five times the price of other MS66 Capped Bust half dollars. These experts obviously understood the special nature of this remarkable piece.
The reverse is identified by the missing left serifs to each E in the legend. NGC calls this piece a specimen but it has been called a proof on several past occasions. In 1990, Stack's called it "a self-evident proof." In his Proof Encyclopedia, Walter Breen noted that he had seen three proofs of this variety, except he mistakenly called it O-102, providing a description of that reverse die:
"Identifiable by a small cluster of rust pits below NI in UNITED. Newcomer--Col. Green, probably the piece Beistle saw. I have seen three, one of them being the Cass, 'Empire' coin, lot 1312, ex R.T. McPherson: 844, ex 1949 ANA Sale. Others probably exist. Reverse is 1820 E, used for proofs and business strikes in both years."
This piece is the specific McPherson, Empire coin that Breen mentioned. The problem with his description is that this is not O-102, but actually O-103, and therefore the reverse die is not the same as 1820 Reverse E that was used for O-106 of the earlier year.
While Breen mentioned the existence of several proof examples, we believe that this coin is the only proof O-103 that exists. It has been documented as a proof for over half a century, and possibly long before that.
It is a remarkable coin with deeply mirrored fields and frosty devices, with every detail boldly rendered. The surfaces are virtually perfect with no blemishes evident on each side. Marvelous old-time collection toning consists of intermingled blue, rose, amber, and iridescent toning on both sides. It exactly matches the appearance and pattern in the color plate of the 1990 Stack's catalog, and likely appears exactly as it did 50 or 60 years ago.
Ex: 1949 ANA; R.T. McPherson (Stack's, 2/1953), lot 844; Empire Collection (Stack's, 11/1957), lot 1312; Stack's (10/1990), lot 1648; Heritage (1/2008), lot 2868 as NGC MS66 (old holder).(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 24FF, PCGS# 6128)
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.
This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.
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