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Condition Census 1802 Half Dime
V-1, LM-1, XF45

1802 H10C XF45 PCGS. V-1, LM-1, R.5. The rarity of the 1802 half dime is well known to collectors of United States coins. Only 35 or so pieces are believed known in all grades. Most, of course, are in low grades and David Davis gives a roster of "The Fourteen Worst 1802 Half Dimes" on page 38 of the Logan-McCloskey half dime reference. There are a surprising number of high grade examples also known of this date, the finest of which is the AU50 Granberg coin that was last sold by Heritage in the 1998 FUN Sale.
David Davis' article is well researched and well worth the time to read, especially if one is interested in bidding on this coin. He has surveyed auction catalogs and found 167 appearances at public auction over a 140-year period, for an average of 1.2 appearances per year. As he points out, the availability of this date has not been uniform. In fact, there were 17 years when only three or four pieces were offered. And there were two nine-year spans, 1894-1903 and 1926-1934, when none were available at auction. This irregular availability is mirrored in Heritage's offerings of this date. We did not handle a single coin between 1976 and 1998. We handle one example of this date for approximately every 100,000 auction lots to appear in our sales. In Federal Half Dimes 1792-1837, Russ Logan and John McCloskey commented: "The 1802 half dime has not only been recognized as the key date in the early half dime series for well over a century, but it is often described as one of the classic rarities of U.S. numismatics." It is also considered to be among the 100 greatest U.S. coins by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
The rarity of the 1802 half dime was recognized almost as soon as coin collecting became popular in the late 1850s. The first coin offered at public auction was in the 1859 sale by Edward Cogan of the J.N.T. Levick Collection, but that piece did not sell. The first actual sale of an 1802 half dime was four years later in the Lilliendahl Collection. That coin, described as in "very good condition" brought $340. In Davis' article (much of which we have obviously cribbed for this description), he points out just how much $340 represented in 1863: The finest known 1794 dollar sold that same year for $285. The price for the Lilliendahl coin stood as a record until Newlin's "Uncirculated" specimen sold for $400 in 1883. As a back-handed compliment to the absolute rarity of this issue, several counterfeits have been manufactured over the years of the 1802 half dime. Both the Smithsonian and the ANA Money Museum have counterfeits in their institutional holdings.
At the XF45 level, this piece is definitely in the upper reaches of the Condition Census for this rarity. The surfaces are lilac overall with golden accents around the devices. For pedigree purposes we note a thin scratch across the cheek of Liberty, and a diagonal one across the horizontal stripes of the shield on the reverse. Irregularly struck, as always, with softness showing on the lower curls of Liberty's hair as well as the corresponding area on the reverse, i.e., stars 2, 3, and 8 above the eagle's head. A rare opportunity for the serious collector of U.S. numismatic rarities.
From The Joseph C. Thomas Collection.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 2328, PCGS# 4268)

View all of [The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two ]

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Apr-May, 2009
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