Amazing 1839 No Drapery Half, PR651839 50C No Drapery PR65 NGC. This issue has always ranked among the most desirable early proofs, combining extreme rarity with its status as a single year design type, and the first year of issue for a major design group. For many years a widely held belief was the existence of just three proof examples of this issue, based on the 1977 work of Walter Breen, along with his earlier writings. However, to make matters worse, one of the coins that Breen recorded as a proof was clearly a business strike. Only the Reed Hawn coin and the F.C.C. Boyd specimen were actual proofs. Others have been discovered, and today there are five known proofs.
Each of the true proof 1839 No Drapery half dollars have a fine die crack through the base of HALF DOL., continuing faintly through the tops of MERICA. Light clash marks are evident within the spaces of the vertical shield stripes, and several of the vertical lines extend into the horizontal cross bars. This reverse die was used for both proofs and business strikes, so it is unreliable as a diagnostic. There are no characteristics that will aid in differentiating between proofs and business strikes, aside from the quality of production. Notes about the dies: the obverse has the shield point over the space between the 1 and 8. The date is rather small, and high above the border, slightly closer to the rock. The left base of the 1 is over the right curve of a dentil. There appears to be an extremely short, diagonal die line extending down from the bottom right base of the 1.
This gorgeous Gem has pale gold at the centers, with intermingled violet and sea-green at the borders. Both sides are wonderfully well detailed, with deeply mirrored fields around the lustrous devices. A few minor hairlines are consistent with the grade. The following roster, adopted from previous research by our staff and others, presents a record of the five known examples.
1. PR65 NGC. Possibly the 1948 ANA example. The present specimen.
2. PR64 PCGS. Reed Hawn (Stack's, 8/1973), lot 125; Bowers and Merena (8/1999), lot 199; Goldberg Coins (2/2001), lot 1752; 2002 ANA Sale (Superior, 8/1992), lot 973; Heritage (1/2004), lot 5941; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 3/2005); Heritage (1/2007), lot 988.
3. PR62 NGC. F.C.C. Boyd (World's Greatest Collection, Numismatic Gallery, 4/1945), lot 246; 1946 ANA (Abe Kosoff), lot 812; Stack's (3/1965), lot 440; 1976 ANA (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 1172; Stack's (12/1985), lot 942; Worrell Collection (Superior, 9/1993), lot 712; Phil Kaufman Collection (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2376.
4. PR63 PCGS. Heritage (9/2002), lot 13257; Heritage (12/2002), lot 19261.
5. Proof. Stack's (10/1996), lot 300. Unknown previous pedigree.
Will W. Neil (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 474; 1948 ANA, lot 1766. (NGC ID# 27SZ, PCGS# 6381)
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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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