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The Norweb 1823 PR63 O-111 Half Dollar
1823 50C PR63 NGC. O-111, Unique as a Proof. The sole known
proof specimen from O-111 dies, though a handful of O-108 specimens
are accepted as proofs to varying degrees. One of the few proof
coins Walter Breen admitted to not having examined in his
legendary Proof Encyclopedia, where he wrote:
Select, Unique as a Proof
"Normal date. Repeatedly reported but not seen by me, though several deceptive early strikes are around. First auctioned in the J.N.T. Levick sale of October 1864 (W. Elliott Woodward, auctioneer), Cleneay:1154, illustrated; several flat stars. Waldo Newcomer had one, #1440 in his private catalogue, unattributed, possibly the Levick (?) - Cleneay coin; it cost him $25 back in the early 1920's, which was then a high price even for proofs."
Interestingly, Breen does not record the offering of the present coin by B. Max Mehl in November 1954, as lot 230; from there it went into the Norweb Collection, later to be offered as lot 3079 in Norweb III (Bowers and Merena, November 1988). This piece was linked speculatively to the Levick - Cleneay pedigree in both its Norweb appearance and its initial Heritage appearance (see below), and the absence of other examples of the O-111 as a proof make that descent the most plausible, though there will always be a measure of uncertainty where the coin was before the Mehl auction.
Heritage had the privilege of offering this piece in its January 1996 FUN Auction, and we are proud to do so once again. Last time, the cataloger wrote: "This piece has exceptionally deep mirrors in the fields with quite a different 'look' to it than a prooflike business strike, even though several of the peripheral stars are not fully struck. Both sides show light golden toning, and the devices have a moderate amount of mint frost which provides a modest contrast on each side."
The presence of a few flat stars is a constant refrain in the descriptions of the proof O-111 1823 half dollars throughout history. More subtle visual markers that turn up in the Norweb and Heritage 1996 plate appearances include a tiny dark toning dot at the back of Liberty's cap and two areas of planchet roughness on the reverse, one on either side of the eagle's neck. Though lightly hairlined with a pinscratch trailing from the M in AMERICA, this is a fundamentally pleasing specimen that will prove to be a star in whatever cabinet of early U.S. coinage holds it next. (NGC ID# 27SD, PCGS# 6198)
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.
This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.
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