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1829 $5 Large Date PR64 PCGS Secure. CAC. Breen-6489, BD-1, R.7....
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The Garrett Specimen
The Only Certified Proof of Its Type
Early Auction Appearances
The earliest auction appearance that we have found for an 1829 half eagle was just 35 years after they were minted, in W. Elliot Woodward's May 1864 sale of the McCoy Collection. At the time, Woodward noted that the date was very rare with "not more than six known." The 1829 half eagles made several additional auction appearances throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century, although specimens are difficult to track, as most were unplated. Many were called proof regardless of their actual appearance.
In the early and middle decades of the 20th century, roughly from the 1920s to the 1960s, coin dealers and auction houses called nearly any coin with a mirrored finish a proof. The problem was compounded by poor auction plates, or in some cases no plates at all. The publications of Walter Breen, including the Hewitt monograph series, Proof Encyclopedia, and Complete Encyclopedia, complicated matters as he promulgated the proof status of such coins, often without verifying their true status. Of course there were exceptions to the rule, and some individuals had a better understanding of strike status than others. One of the worst, calling virtually anything a proof or "semi-proof" was B. Max Mehl. A well known numismatic promoter, Mehl did a great deal to enhance coin collecting to the general public, but his actual numismatic knowledge was less than many of his contemporaries.
During the last four decades a great deal has been learned about early minting technology, and numismatists today have the advantage of knowing with near certainty the identity of proofs versus prooflike business strikes, while some catalogers took pains to provide conservative descriptions of the coins they offered. In that category are sales such as the Garrett and Eliasberg sales, among others.
Sorting out the roster of early proof gold coinage is a project requiring careful study. A number of today's best numismatic minds have worked on the study, including individuals such as John Dannreuther, Jeff Garrett, and Saul Teichman. The late Harry W. Bass, Jr., also had an excellent understanding of strike quality. Relying in part on the observations of those individuals, the cataloger will attempt to analyze all of the large diameter early gold issues from 1820 to 1829, commenting on pieces described as proof in past offerings, creating a roster of known specimens. In addition, a complete roster of all known 1829 half eagles of both diameters, large and small, will be attempted.
Early Proof Coin Criteria
The first step in an accurate roster of early proofs is understanding what such a coin should look like. Many years ago this cataloger developed the following criteria for identifying of early specimen and proof coins that were struck in the screw-press era (1792-1836). There are exceptions to the rules, and there will be other individuals who have different thoughts.
Specifically, the following rules will guide identification:
1. The strike should be crisp and sharp and certainly should be exceptional for the given die combination. Centering should be excellent. The old rule that the coin should show evidence of double strike is discounted.
2. The planchet should show excellent workmanship, with faint adjustment marks permissible.
3. Dies should be well made with no major defects. Faint clash marks, die cracks, or lapping are allowed, but major cracks, breaks, and heavy clash marks are unexpected.
4. The planchet should show evidence of burnishing to create a mirrored finish, and the dies should show evidence of polishing to accent the mirrored finish. The absence of one or the other is permissible, but at least one of the two minting techniques must be evident.
5. The fields should be fully mirrored, with crisp junctions at the devices. Slight die bulging, as sometimes seen in front of the face on the smaller silver coins, is permissible, but heavy die bulging is not allowed.
True Proofs and One-Sided Proofs
Numismatic literature discusses so-called "one-sided" proofs, and, indeed, such coins do exist. Those coins typically have a proof obverse and a Mint State reverse. The one-sided proofs need to be distinguished from two-sided proofs as they are clearly different pieces. Are they less desirable, or perhaps more desirable due to the unusual production method? Those hybrid pieces require a special designation-perhaps Specimen versus proof, or to borrow from B. Max Mehl, perhaps the one-sided proofs could be called "semi-proofs."
John Dannreuther discussed the one-sided proofs in Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, A Study of Die States, 1795-1834:
"The Mint struck these oddities and we can only guess why only one side of these examples received Proof treatment. Not only was the obverse die the single die prepared for striking Proofs, but also the planchets were burnished only on the side to receive the Proof striking. Because these two situations only occur on purpose, we must conclude that the Mint intentionally struck one-sided Proofs."
True two-sided proof examples are struck from specially prepared die pairs, obverse and reverse. They were struck on planchets burnished on both sides. The few survivors that exist today show the special care taken to produce real works of art.
Survey of Proof Half Eagles (1820-1829)
The following record of early proof half eagles will show that only 11 proofs exist for all dates of the type from 1820 to 1829, including three one-sided proofs. The total surviving population includes four pieces in the Smithsonian Institution, four pieces in the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection on display at the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs, and just three others in private hands, including this PR64 PCGS 1829 from the Garrett Collection. Most grades reported in the following census are estimates of the cataloger and others.
1820 Half Eagles
Past literature and auction catalogs have suggested that as many as four to six proof 1820 half eagles exist, but only two specimens have claim to proof status. There is no proof in the Smithsonian Institution and the only proofs that have appeared during the last three decades were the 1979 ANA and Norweb specimens.
1. PR65. George Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2388; Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 1943; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 772; Harry W. Bass Jr.; Bass Core Collection.
2. PR63. Harlan P. Smith (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 208 [the plate is incorrectly labeled lot 210]; George H. Hall (Stack's, 5/1945), lot 1892; 1979 ANA (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 7/1979), lot 149.
1821 Half Eagles
Only two proof 1821 half eagles are positively identified today, and both reside in museum collections. Apparently for the first time ever, complete proof sets were produced in 1821, although there is no documented occasion for their issue. No other proof 1821 half eagles have appeared in past literature.
1. PR65 Cameo. Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.
2. PR63. J. Colvin Randall Sale (W.E. Woodward, 6/1885), lot 927; William H. Woodin (1914 ANS Exhibit, plate 15); Waldo C. Newcomer; Col. E.H.R. Green; B.G. Johnson; King Farouk (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 237; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 773; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Core Collection.
1822 Half Eagles
None of the three known examples have even remote claims to proof status.
1823 Half Eagles
The five dollar gold pieces were the only gold coins struck in 1823, and there are no proofs currently known. However, proof silver and minor coins exist, so the existence of a proof 1823 half eagle is possible.
1824 Half Eagles
Several past claims have been published that the Smithsonian Institution has a proof 1824 half eagle, including in Cory Gillilland's Sylloge of the United States Holdings in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution. However, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, numismatists who are extremely familiar with the Smithsonian gold coin collection, write in Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, that "no Proof 1824 half eagles are known to exist, despite previous claims that the example in the Smithsonian is a Proof." There are no records of any other proof examples.
1825/1 Half Eagles
At PCGS Coin Facts (www.pcgscoinfacts.com), David Hall writes: "There are only two proofs known of this date. One example is in the Smithsonian and the other is in the Harry Bass Collection.
1. Proof. Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890); Charles Steigerwalt; William H. Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; Col. E.H.R. Green; Col. Flanagan Collection (Stack's, 3/1944), lot 1100; J.F. Bell Sale (Stack's, 11/1944), lot 346; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; H.R. Lee Sale (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 1243; King Farouk (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 240; Dr. Wilkison; Mocatta Metals. David Akers considers this specimen a true proof.
2. PR/MS67. Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution. Garrett and Guth report that the Smithsonian specimen is "a delightful PF-67 coin with a mirrored obverse and a frosty reverse." In other words, it is a one-sided proof.
3. Proof/Mint State. Stanley Kesselman (12/18/1970); Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Core Collection. This piece is considered a one-sided proof with a Mint State reverse.
1825/4 Half Eagles
Only two examples of this rarity are known, and the Eliasberg piece has been described in the past as a proof. However, most students today describe the coin as a prooflike Mint State example.
1826 Half Eagles
Past literature has claimed the existence of several proof 1826 half eagles, but the modern reexamination of such coins will show that only one or two proof examples are actually known. One of those is the Smithsonian specimen, and the other has not been seen since the 1954 Farouk Sale. At PCGS Coin Facts, David Hall describes the Smithsonian specimen as a unique proof of 1826.
1. PR67. Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.
1827 Half Eagles
In Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795-1933, Garrett and Guth write that both reported proofs of 1827 have been discredited. "The Smithsonian example is an MS-64 coin and definitely not a Proof or even a presentation strike. Harry Bass, Jr. called his coin an impaired Proof, but it, too, is not a Proof, but merely prooflike."
1828/7 Half Eagles
Although a single proof has been described in past numismatic publications, it is now believed that no proof 1828 overdate half eagles exist. Garrett and Guth write that "the Eliasberg 'Proof' is now generally believed to be a Mint State example." The coin was graded AU55/MS60 in the Eliasberg catalog.
1828 Half Eagles
At PCGS Coin Facts, David Hall writes that "there is only one proof that has ever been positively verified. It is the gem proof in the Smithsonian." Garrett and Guth concur, writing: "Only one Proof 1828 half eagle is known to exist; the coin is from the normal, non-redated dies. The piece is the PF-67 Smithsonian example, struck using a close collar."
1. PR67. Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.
1829 Large Date Half Eagles
When it was offered as part of the conservatively graded Garrett Collection sale, this specimen was called a Mint State coin with the comment that "quite possibly this piece was struck as a Proof; it is definitely a special striking, perhaps a presentation piece." Until it was recently certified, numismatists had overlooked the Garrett coin and believed that the only proof 1829 Large Date piece was the one-sided proof Bass specimen. The two known proof 1829 Large Date half eagles are recorded below in our 1829 half eagle roster.
A number of early half eagles have been called proofs in past auction catalogs and are now discounted as prooflike business strikes. A few extreme cases involve coins that were called proofs even though they showed no mirror finish on either side.
1820-A. World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1946), lot 368. Kosoff described this coin as a proof, but the plate suggests nothing of the sort. The selling price of $310, only $10 more than the uncirculated 1820 in lot 369, also suggests that the coin was Mint State rather than proof. The same image was used in the Memorable catalog (lot 318), and in the Melish catalog (lot 1945), and the same comments apply.
1820-B. Thomas Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 1942. Called proof by Kosoff, but there was no plate and it is impossible to trace today.
1820-C. William H. Woodin (1914 ANS Exhibition); Waldo C. Newcomer; Col. E.H.R. Green. This piece was called proof in the 1914 ANS book, but there was no plate and identification from the Newcomer plate is inconclusive. Some sources state this coin later went to King Farouk but the Farouk catalog has nothing resembling a proof 1820 half eagle.
1820-D. J.F. Bell, Part II (RARCOA, 4/1963), lot 598. Breen calls this specimen a proof in his Proof Encyclopedia. However, the catalog description, "A Brilliant Uncirculated Gem that looks like a proof," suggests otherwise.
1823-A. J. Colvin Randall Sale (W.E. Woodward, 6/1885), lot 928.
1823-B. Golden Sale of the Century (Abner Kreisberg and Hans M.F. Schulman, 3/1962), lot 2484. Walter Breen implied that the Golden Sale coin is a proof. However, the catalog description, "A magnificent gem specimen with full proof luster," suggests the coin is not a proof. The catalog plate is indistinct, but shows a coin that appears to lack the necessary qualifications of a proof.
1825-A. Charles Zug (S.H. Chapman,10/1909); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena,10/1987), lot 776. Some observers consider this piece to be a one-sided proof with a Mint State reverse. However, it was graded "MS-63 or finer, prooflike gem" in the Norweb catalog where the describer wrote: "A superb strike with prooflike obverse and frosty reverse."
1825-B. George H. Hall (Stack's, 5/1945), lot 1895. The plate in the Hall catalog is identical to the plates in the Flanagan, Bell, and Lee catalogs. However, Louis Eliasberg, Sr., purchased the coin at the Bell sale, according to a named copy of the catalog, and held that piece until it sold with his duplicates in 1947.
1826-A. J. Colvin Randall Sale (W.E. Woodward, 6/1885), lot 931; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 965; Charles Steigerwalt; William H. Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; Col. E.H.R. Green; King Farouk (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 241. This piece has not been seen since 1954. The coin plated in the Farouk catalog appears to match the plate in the Stack's catalog of the Hall Collection, and that coin in no way resembles a proof.
1826-B. George H. Hall (Stack's, 5/1945), lot 1896. Graded Extremely Fine in the Hall catalog. The plate suggests a higher grade but it is not a proof.
1827-A. Harlan P. Smith (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 215; John H. Clapp; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 384. Graded AU55 in the Eliasberg catalog.
1828/7-A. Harlan P. Smith (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 216; John H. Clapp; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 385; Stanley Kesselman.
1828-A. King Farouk (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 243; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 778. Graded "AU-55 Prooflike" in the Norweb catalog.
1828-B. David S. Wilson; W.F. Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941); J.F. Bell (RARCOA, 4/1963), lot 605; Auction '81 (RARCOA, 7/1981), lot 442; Paramount 1/1982; Auction '88 (David Akers, 7/1988), lot 904; Harry W. Bass, Jr.; Bass Core Collection. Graded Choice AU in the catalog for Auction '81, and AU55 by David Akers in Auction '88.
Roster of 1829 Large Date Half Eagles
A number of numismatists, including some of the smartest and brightest minds, have attempted a complete roster of both types of 1829 half eagles, with considerable difference of opinion. The Heritage roster is updated from a variety of data compiled over many years. We believe this work is accurate. Of course, every past student has believed the same.
1. PR64 PCGS. Owned by Joseph J. Mickley by 1867 and probably before 1858, when he mentioned the 1829 half eagles in his monograph, Dates of United States Coins and Their Degrees of Rarity; W. Elliot Woodward; William Sumner Appleton; W. Elliot Woodward (privately, 1/1883); T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; The Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 471; Stack's (10/1988), lot 82; 1989 ANA (Bowers and Merena, 8/1989), lot 548; Michael I. Keston Collection (Superior, 1/1996), lot 120. The present specimen.
2. PR65/MS65. David S. Wilson (S.H. Chapman, 3/1907), lot 79; Virgil M. Brand; Armin Brand; Frieda Brand; Jane Brand Allen; "Virgil M. Brand Collection" (Bowers and Merena, 11/1983), lot 280; Auction '85 (Superior, 7/1985), lot 941; Harry W. Bass, Jr; Bass Core Collection. Probably ex: Col. Mendes I. Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 149; John W. Haseltine; J. Colvin Randall Collection (W.E. Woodward, 6/1885), lot 934. Several researchers have suggested that the Cohen specimen went to Lorin G. Parmelee, but that now appears doubtful.
3. MS66 ICG. Lorin G. Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 988; Byron Reed Collection; Omaha City Library/Western Heritage Museum. Probably ex: W.E. Woodward (Sixth Semi-Annual Sale, 3/1865), lot 2780; William Strobridge; then possibly to George Seavey, who exhibited an 1829 half eagle at the Boston Numismatic Society on February 4, 1869; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 490; Lorin G. Parmelee, who bought the entire Seavey Collection en masse before the sale; Parmelee Collection (Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 789, withdrawn. Heritage numismatist David Stone believes that this coin, offered as a duplicate from the Parmelee Collection, was withdrawn from the sale when Parmelee realized that it was a Large Date, and therefore not a duplicate.
4. MS65 or finer. Harlan Page Smith Collection (Chapman Brothers, 5/1906), lot 218; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 387.
5. MS65 PCGS. Col. E.H.R. Green; King Farouk (Sotheby's, 2/1954), part of lot 244; Dr. Clifford Smith (Stack's, 5/1955), lot 1691; 1976 ANA (Stack's, 2/1976), lot 2945; Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1999), lot 820. This piece may have belonged to Waldo C. Newcomer and William H. Woodin, as suggested in the 1960s Breen monograph.
6. MS63. Peter Mougey Collection (Thomas Elder, 9/1910), lot 1075; unknown intermediaries (possibly Henry Chapman; Col. James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond); William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 1646; Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. Collection; Smithsonian Institution. The early provenance to Atwater is tentative but convincing.
7. VF, Damaged. Coen and Messer (New York); Edwin Shapiro; 1964 ANA (Federal Brand Enterprises, 8/1964), lot 2863; Paramount (11/1966); Kagin's; 1986 FUN Sale (Mid-American, 1/1986), lot 2029; 1997 ANA (Heritage, 7/1997), lot 5203. The obverse photo in the 1986 Mid-American catalog and the 1997 ANA catalog match, showing exactly the same coin. However, the reverse photos are dissimilar, suggesting two different coins.
A. McCoy Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 5/1864), lot 1958; J.O. Emery; Heman Ely (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 841.
B. Fifth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1864), lot 1652; J.O. Emery; Emery, Taylor & Loomis Collections (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1880), lot 1012.
C.William J. Jenks Collection (Edward Cogan, 4/1877), lot 346.
D. Phineas Adams; William J. Jenks; Sixty-Ninth Sale (John W. Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 363; Harold P. Newlin. This coin was offered to T. Harrison Garrett in October 1883, but he already owned an example, so he returned this piece to Newlin.
E. Rev. Foster Ely (Scott Stamp & Coin Co., 11/1888), lot 42.
The Garrett Specimen
Fully mirrored fields are evident on both sides with no indication of mint frost. The strike is bold and well-centered. Satin luster is limited to the devices. Slight weakness is noted only on the claws and the top edges of the two wings, and even the claws show some detail. Noticeable contrast is seen between the fields and devices, with crisp junctions at the edge of all devices. Mirrored finish is visible between dentils. Spaces between vertical shield stripes, as well as letters in LIBERTY and E PLURIBUS UNUM show satin luster with light reflectivity. Both sides show vibrant olive-yellow in the fields, with brighter yellow on the devices and splashes of Indian red, especially on the reverse. The surfaces show a few faint lines and contact marks consistent with the grade. A singular line inside stars 2 and 3 is the only provenance marker, clearly visible in the Garrett catalog plate.
No clash marks are visible on either side. A delicate die crack from the border to the knob of the 5 joins the bottoms of the 5 and D, but no other die cracks are found on either side. The crack is nearly invisible on this piece and is lighter than on the Bass one-sided proof. The Garrett specimen was clearly struck before the Bass coin. Only a few Large Size half eagles of the type struck from 1813 to 1829 can be called proofs, and nearly every such piece is a one-sided proof. This specimen is the only certified proof of the entire type.
From The Harvey B. Jacobson, Jr. Collection. (PCGS# 8149)
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