1792 Half Disme, Judd-7, AU50
1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, AU50 PCGS
Secure. The Brasher doubloon and 1792 silver half disme are
arguably America's most historic gold and silver coins,
respectively, although there is a huge difference in availability
between the two issues. The Brasher doubloons, struck in 1787 and
dated the same, were the first gold coins produced for the United
States of America by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith and neighbor of
George Washington in New York during a time when that city served
as the nation's capital.
Totally Original Example of America's
First and Most Historic Silver Circulation Coinage
Unfortunately for collectors, the Brasher doubloons -- with a nominal value of $15 each and a numismatic worth well into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars each, depending on the grade and other factors -- survive in the extent of only seven pieces, including the six Punch on Wing and the unique Punch on Breast coins. The Brasher doubloons were "struck to circulate as full value coinage," according to Don Kagin on PCGS CoinFacts, one of the previous owners of the Breast Punch example.
The 1792 half dismes have, of course, some distinct similarities and differences from the Brasher doubloons. The designer or designers are unknown, but various names from early U.S. Mint history have been put forth by numismatists who have pondered the matter. The 1792-dated half dismes were certainly the first circulating silver issue produced for the United States, even though they were struck on Mint machinery in the basement of sawmaker John Harper before the actual Mint buildings were constructed and readied for coinage operations, which commenced in the following year, 1793. The Judd-7 pattern designation is somewhat of a misnomer, as there is ample evidence in the historical record and from the coins themselves that they did indeed circulate and were struck in quantities exceeding typical patterns.
The good news for collectors is that, quite differently from the Brasher doubloons, the 1792 half dismes are available in reasonable supply. Most researchers estimate between 100 and 300 survivors of the 1792 half disme exist today from the 1,500 pieces conjectured struck.
The bad news for collectors is that, in common with the Brasher doubloons, the historic 1792 half dismes are the subject of fervent demand. There are far more collectors who desire one than successful bidders at auction. For example, we note that our most-recent offering of a 1792 half disme -- an AU55 PCGS example in our ANA Signature (Heritage, 10/2012), lot 3820, which brought $158,625 -- had 12 bidders for the one winner. A problem-free VF25 PCGS specimen in our Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 5/2012), lot 3418, brought $77,625 and had 17 different bidders. We have noted before that the 1792 half dismes' grades appear to be bifurcated, with two or three dozen high-grade examples contrasting with quite a few well-circulated examples. The certified populations show clusters of coins (some undoubtedly duplicates) around VF, AU58, and MS64.
The 1792 half disme's unique spelling was the subject of an article by Daniel Ackermann in the August 2005 Numismatist. "Thomas Jefferson's French Twist: The 1792 Half Disme," notes that the subtle change from the English form "dime" (first cited in a 1786 Continental Congress ordinance) to the French "disme" on the coins themselves reflects the greater influence of Francophile Thomas Jefferson compared to the Anglophile Alexander Hamilton, who was born in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis in the British West Indies. Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789 and was thus unable to attend the First Constitutional Convention. While in Paris, Jefferson lived on the famed Champs-Elysées boulevard, and the Louisiana Purchase, bought from France in 1803, occurred during his presidency.
The present AU50 PCGS example is covered in mottled amber, gold, rose, and blue tones on each side, with considerable life and vibrant luster to the surfaces underneath the moderately deep patina. Each side shows a few contact marks, the most obvious on the obverse a near-vertical scrape from the forward hair down to the bust truncation, and a diagonal dig running downward from the N in SCIENCE to the rim. A few other wispy marks appear. The reverse shows strike softness on some of the peripheral legends, most notably the M in AMERICA. A near-circular scrape occurs in the field above the eagle's head along with a few other marks, although the scattered signs of contact on each side are not readily apparent under the dappled color. As the AU50 grade implies, a pleasing wealth of detail remains on the fine strands of Liberty's hair and the small feathers on the eagle, in particular, and the total originality and good preservation of the surfaces will make this coin a standout example in any fine numismatic collection. Population: 5 in 50, 31 finer (11/12).(Registry values: P9) (NGC ID# 946T, PCGS# 11020)
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