About Uncirculated 1802 Half Dime, A Landmark Rarity1802 H10C AU 50 NGC. V-1, LM-1, the only known dies, R.5. Formerly offered as lot 6815 in our Philadelphia 2000 Sale, where it was described as, "In all of U.S. numismatics there are only a handful of regular issue coins that can compare in absolute rarity to the 1802 half dime. For this cataloger, it is the measure of a great collection. Doing research for the "Auction Lore" series on historic and important collections from the past, the presence of an 1802 half dime has been the benchmark used in judging whether a collector had a true grasp on rarity or whether he was merely an accumulator. The collection this piece came from, that of William Cutler Atwater, contained two 1802s. To underscore the absolute rarity of this date, when this coin was consigned, Auction Director Bob Merrill said, 'I have been with this auction company since it began in 1976. In all those years and 181 auctions, we have probably sold two dozen 1794 dollars (five in one sale), and 18-20 1796-97 halves, but this is the first 1802 half dime we have ever offered.'
" When the first specimen was sold in 1863, only three pieces were known. Twenty years later, when Harold Newlin published his monograph on the half dime series in 1883, he knew of only 16 specimens. That "16 known" figure stood until the 1930s when James G. Macallister claimed he could trace 35 pieces. No one else has attempted a more recent census, but Breen claimed that 35-45 coins were extant today. What is significant about the 1802 other than its absolute rarity is its extreme rarity in high grade. None are known in Mint State, only two are believed to grade as high as AU, five more are XF, four others are in VF, and the remaining two or three dozen are low grade with a particularly heavy concentration in the Fair to VG range. The rarity of the 1802 is further emphasized by the fact that deceptive electrotype counterfeits are known.
"Deeply toned in shades of cobalt-blue, rose, and golden-gray. The striking details are a bit irregular, this apparently being a trademark of the date as evidenced by the Valentine and Breen plate coins. On the obverse, the stars on the left are weak as are the lowest hair curls. On the reverse, stars 2, 3, and 8 are non-existent. Otherwise, the hair curls on Liberty are well defined as are the feathers on the wings of the eagle. The profile of Liberty is machine doubled and there are several shallow pinscratches in the right obverse field as well as an oval-shaped planchet void on the breast of Liberty. On the reverse, a long scratch runs diagonally across the shield. This piece has been held in major collections for more than a hundred years, and we are very pleased to be able to offer such an important and impressively pedigreed example of this major rarity in U.S. numismatics."
Ex: W. Elliot Woodward Sale (October, 1884); James B. Wilson Collection (Elder, 10/08), where it sold for $715; H.O. Granberg Collection; William Cutler Atwater (BMM, 6/46), lot 1126, where it brought $840; unknown dealer intermediaries in the late 1940s; anonymous New Jersey collector until 1991; 1998 FUN Sale (Heritage, 1/98), lot 6631, where it realized $84,000; Philadelphia 2000 Sale (Heritage, 8/00), lot 6815. (NGC ID# 2328, PCGS# 4268)
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