1836 Lettered Edge Half, Near-Gem Proof, O-106
1836 50C Lettered Edge PR64 NGC. O-106, R.7 as a proof. At
least five different 1836 Lettered Edge Overton half dollar
varieties are known in proof format. The O-101 shows a triple
dentil over the right side of the final S, the O-106 has a beaded
border on the reverse (and other diagnostics described below), the
O-108 has the 8 punched over a misplaced 3, the O-109 shows an
extra point on star 7, and the O-116 displays the blundered 50/00
Important 'Beaded Border' Reverse Variety
First We Have Ever Offered
This proof striking is certified by NGC as O-106 and "Beaded Reverse." The Overton reference notes that "this reverse is the only reverse in the lettered edge series that has a raised edge with beaded segments," a format similar to (but different die pairing from) that used on the later Reeded Edge Bust half proofs of 1836. The Reeded Edge Bust halves are notable as the first U.S. coinage struck under steam power, but as far as we know all of those pieces were struck with the same pair of dies -- proofs and business strikes alike -- the Beistle 19-Y combination showing a short, jagged die crack down from the denticle past the second S of STATES and die doubling on 50 CENTS.
Returning to the 1836 Lettered Edge O-106 reverse die, the 5 in the denomination also displays a "fancy" (Breen's term) flag on top, the first T in STATES is lower than the other letters, and many of the vertical lines extend upward into the horizontal stripes.
Although we have offered proof strikes of the 1836 Lettered Edge several times in the past, this is the first proof example of the O-106 that has appeared since we began our Permanent Auction Archives in 1993. The fully reflective fields on both sides of this coin mark it as a no-questions proof, although the Beaded Border reverse obviously puts it at the nexus of steam-powered coinage. Mint Director Robert Patterson wrote to George Newbold in 1836, "We are getting rid of Blood-power as soon as we can."
This near-Gem shows a crisp strike throughout both sides; the obverse stars are mostly flat save for the last four which are sharp, a diagnostic (as opposed to strike weakness) seen on all business strikes as well. The surfaces show excellent overall preservation, despite a few light field hairlines and a couple of contact marks on the cheek and lower bust. Pinkish-copper tones prevail on both sides.
Between NGC and PCGS there are 15 examples of the 1836 Lettered Edge in all proof grades, nearly all uncertified as to variety. For all proof varieties, NGC has seen four submissions in this grade with one finer (4/13). This is an important early proof half dollar from one of the most historic and momentous years in American coinage history. (NGC ID# 24GG, PCGS# 6221)
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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.
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