Historic 1792 Half Disme, Judd-7, VF301792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, VF30 NGC. The 1792 half disme reflects the tentative beginnings of the early Mint and the challenges that designers and engravers had in transforming the necessary symbolism supported by America's founding fathers into handsome designs. That the early coinage would feature Liberty was a given after it was decided that the portrait of Washington, or any other president, was unsuitable for circulating coinage. The selection of the eagle for the reverse was more problematic.
The absence of a national coat of arms which artists could replicate in whole or in part demanded the selection of a motif capable of conveying the authority of a new country. The eagle, now a familiar symbol of American power, was selected more by a process of elimination than by an affirmative designation. A January 1791 report by the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, noted that "The eagle is not a very expressive or apt appellation for the largest gold piece, but nothing better appears ... ." For the past two centuries, numismatic artists in America have been interpreting the motifs of Liberty and the eagle with varying success.
Cornelius Vermeule, in his opus Numismatic Art in America, commented on the aesthetic challenges of this early issue. He wrote, "The bust of liberty, labeled 'Parent of Science and Industry,' is an unflattering cross between Martha Washington and one of the wild-eyed harridans who knitted while heads rolled during the French Revolution." Regarding the reverse, he commented that it resembled, "... an ailing barnyard fowl, with undersized wings spread at odd angles, curving neck, and oddly foreshortened body, a creature nowhere better seen than on the small surfaces of the dime and half-dime." Certainly, this design is not beautiful by traditional standards, yet its charm is undeniable.
This example is absolutely exceptional for the grade. Its surfaces are a handsome deep charcoal-gray with golden undertones that liven up the peripheries. It is free of the issues or distracting problems that plague these early coins, and it exhibits no distracting marks worthy of individual mention. The wear is even and the strike is uniform, resulting in rewarding detail remaining in the hair, and a strong profile to admire. A lively example that will certainly attract well-deserved attention when it crosses the auction block.
From The Joseph C. Thomas Collection.(Registry values: P9) (NGC ID# 946T, PCGS# 11020)
View all of [The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part One ]
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