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1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, VF25 PCGS....

2007 Milwaukee, WI (ANA) Signature Coin Auction #444

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Auction Ended On: Aug 9, 2007
Item Activity: 11 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
Attractive Midgrade 1792 Half Disme, Judd-7, VF25
Remarkable Opportunity To Acquire This Historic Coin
1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, VF25 PCGS. There has been so much written about these coins, incorporating fact and fiction, that it is difficult to know just what to believe. It is time for this cataloger (MRB) to add my own five cents' worth.
We actually know little about these coins. The information that we can actually accept as fact is limited to the following: they were produced before November 6, 1792; they were not struck within the physical structure of the Mint building, which was still under construction; most survivors are in low grade or are damaged, with few higher grade examples known. George Washington discussed the coins in his "State of the Union" address of November 6, 1792, thus showing that they were struck prior to that date. They were not produced at the Mint building, but they were almost certainly produced within the city of Philadelphia at another location where coining equipment existed. As most survivors are in low grade or are damaged, or both, we can assume that the half dismes actually circulated at the time of issue. Had they been intended as pattern coins, most survivors would probably be in much higher grade. The majority of survivors from the other 1792 coinage issues are in relatively high grade, suggesting that they had been preserved as keepsakes. The wording of Washington's November address, "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," along with the physical evidence of low-grade survivors, provides considerable evidence that the coins were, in fact, intended for circulation.
Everything else "known" about these coins is speculation at best, or pure fiction at worst. Such speculation includes the following statements: the coins were struck in John Harper's cellar; the mintage was between 1,500 and 2,000 coins; Martha Washington's likeness appears on the obverse; George and Martha Washington provided their personal silverware or dinnerware as a source of silver. The coins may have been struck in John Harper's cellar. On April 9, 1844, Dr. Jonas McClintock reported on a conversation he had with Adam Eckfeldt: "In a conversation with Mr. Adam Eckfeldt today at the mint, he informed me that the half dismes were struck at the request of General Washington to the extent of One Hundred Dollars which sum he deposited in Bullion or Specie for the purpose - Mr. E thinks that Gen. W. distributed them as presents - some were sent to Europe but the greater number of them he believes, were given to acquaintances in Virginia - no more of them coined except those of Gen. W. - they were never designed as currency. The Mint was not at the time fully ready for going into operation - the coining machinery was in the cellar of Mr. Harper's saw maker at the corner of Cherry and 6th Streets, at which these pieces were struck." Some consider this statement to be the documentary evidence needed to substantiate the "facts" about these coins, but they were based on the memory of 75-year-old Adam Eckfeldt about events that had occurred more than a half-century earlier. While Eckfeldt recalled that all of the coins were struck for George Washington, totaling 2,000 coins, a July 13, 1792 entry in the account book of Thomas Jefferson states that he received 1,500 of the coins. These two reports seem to conflict and are the basis for mintage figures of 1,500 to 2,000 coins. But which is correct? Or are they both correct and there were actually 3,500 pieces struck?
The present example specimen is quite attractive, with sea-green and iridescent toning in the obverse fields and grayish-orange on the devices. The obverse fields and devices have numerous tiny scratches and abrasions, yet the natural coloration so effectively masks them that they can hardly be seen. The reverse fields are grayish-gold with iridescent toning, and numerous tiny imperfections underneath. This 1792 half disme provides a remarkable opportunity for the advanced numismatist--or the collector who just want to own one. Come take a look and place a bid.(Registry values: P9) (PCGS# 11020)

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