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1839 No Drapery Seated Half Dollar, PR64
1839 50C No Drapery PR64 PCGS. WB-101. This truly remarkable
piece showcases deeply reflective fields and is obviously a proof
striking even though heavily toned. The devices show pinpoint
striking definition, obviously having been struck multiple times to
bring up the details seen here. Each side is covered with rich
blue, slate-gray, and citrine toning with slight evidence of
underlying hairlines from an old cleaning. Easily distinguished for
pedigree purposes by a spot over the right side of the N in UNITED
on the reverse.
Extremely Rare, One of Only Five Proofs Known
Variety: WB-101, the No Drapery variant. All but one of the known 1839 proofs are of this variety.
Population Data (5/14): PCGS shows one each in PR64 and PR64+. NGC offers six (two PR62, two PR63, one PR64, one PR65), although the combined total drastically overstates the number of actual pieces known to exist. This piece is the second-finest known, outranked only by a sole PR64+ PCGS example. See Roster.
Heritage Commentary: Proof examples of the 1839 half dollar were allegedly struck on August 13, 1839. One proof and one business strike were sent by Mint Director Patterson to the Secretary of Treasury and were distinguished as special strikings in a letter between the two officials even though the word "proof" was not used. Only five proofs are confirmed to exist today, which supports Wiley and Bugert's statement that "less than 6 [are known]," making this an extreme rarity from any viewpoint.
There are a couple of curious attributes on all proof 1839 halves, and this coin in particular. First, all are struck from a reverse die that shows a die crack of considerable length on the lower reverse. Some are struck from an even later state of the reverse die and display a bisecting crack by the lowest olive leaf that continues to the R in AMERICA and the rim. However, this particular coin does not display that second crack, and it was the opinion of the cataloger at Bowers in August 1999, that this particular coin (the Reed Hawn specimen) is the only proof that does not show the second, bisecting crack. A second curiosity is what appears to be partial drapery below Liberty's elbow. This was not mentioned in the Rarities Sale from 1999, but we feel compelled to do so as it is quite obvious. While it appears at first glance that this is a Partial Drapery coin and the drapery has been mostly effaced, this cannot be as No Drapery coins are diagnostically different from Drapery halves of 1839. On No Drapery coins, the most obvious difference is the positioning of the rock relative to star 1: it is much closer on the No Drapery halves, and considerably farther apart on the With Drapery pieces. The element seen just below Liberty's elbow on this piece is in actuality light die clashing from the reverse, exhibiting the faint impression of the recessed, flat stripes from the shield, which was not fully polished away prior to striking; an outline of Liberty's elbow region seen on the corresponding portion of the reverse confirms this assertion. Furthermore, while it is pure speculation, it is possible that the lack of the second die crack on this piece could indicate this is the very coin Robert Maskell Patterson sent to the Secretary of the Treasury in 1839.
Roster of 1839 No Drapery Proof Half Dollars
Ranked in condition order.
1. PR64+ PCGS. Possibly the 1948 ANA example; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2009), lot 2481, where it brought $241,500; New York Signature (Heritage, 11/2013), lot 3621.
2. PR64 PCGS. Reed Hawn Collection (Stack's, 8/1973), lot 125; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1999), lot 199; Benson Collection (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2001), lot 1752; ANA Sale (Superior, 8/2002), lot 973; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 5941; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 3/2005), lot 1784; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 988. The present coin.
3. PR63 PCGS. Exclusively Internet Auction (Heritage, 9/2002), lot 13257; Exclusively Internet Auction (Heritage, 12/2002), lot 19261.
4. PR62 NGC. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 4/1945), lot 246; Adolph Friedman; ANA (Numismatic Gallery, 8/1946), lot 812; E.M. Seneca; Berbert & Roe Collections (Stack's, 3/1965), lot 440; 1976 ANA (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 1172; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 12/1985), lot 942; Worrell Collection (Superior, 9/1993), lot 712; Phil Kaufman Collection (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2376; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2010), lot 2554; Boston Signature (Heritage, 8/2010), lot 3167.
5. Proof. U.S. Gold, Silver and Copper Coins (Stack's, 10/1996), lot 300. Unknown previous pedigree, possibly the coin discovered in a European collection by Marc Emory in 1981.
A. Proof. Richard B. Winsor (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 539; possibly Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 474; ANA Convention Auction (Frank Katen, 8/1948), lot 1766.
B. Proof. Joseph Mickley Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 1786, realized $3.75 to Colonel Mendes I. Cohen; Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 627, realized $8.50 to Heman Ely; Ely Collection (Woodward, 1/1884), lot 202. (NGC ID# 27SZ, PCGS# 6381)
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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.
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