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Spectacular 1850 Half Dollar, PR66
The Finest Known
Akers: "Possibly Unique"

1850 50C PR66 NGC. Ex: Pittman-Kaufman. Phil Kaufman's Premium Gem proof 1850 half dollar is one of the most notable and spectacular coins in his collection. The rarity of this issue is undeniable, though numismatists differ on their estimates of known examples. Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert, for example, in their Liberty Seated half dollar reference, suggest that at least four proofs are known. Our roster, presented below, also lists four different pieces, based on descriptions of others, not necessarily on personal examination. Some of the pieces that we record may be prooflike business strikes.

David Akers, in his May 1998 cataloging of the John Jay Pittman specimen, on the other hand, contends: "This Pittman specimen is the only 1850 Half Dollar that I have ever seen that I feel reasonably confident declaring to be a Proof. It seems reasonable to expect that more examples exist than just this one coin, but it is worth noting that the great Mickley, Winsor, Stickney and Allenburger Collections, which contained perhaps the most complete selections of Proofs ever offered for sale at public auction, all failed to have this issue in Proof." In the Pittman catalog, Akers bills the Pittman specimen as "possibly unique" as a proof.

Several distinctly different varieties have been described as proofs in a number of past auction catalogs. However, there seems to be some disagreement about the varieties that are legitimate proofs, and those that are not.

1. In the Pittman Catalog, Akers notes that the coin offered has the date slanting up to the right, with the top of the 1 distant from the base of Liberty. He suggests that true proofs of the date are known only from this obverse die.

2. The Norweb Collection coin, described as prooflike in that catalog, has the date lower in the field with the final digit closer to the border. A second example of this variety has been certified as a proof, and appeared in the June 2002 Heritage auction. TIt has a die crack through the tops of UNITED STATES. While this alone does not preclude a coin as a proof, it certainly lessens the possibility when combined with other questionable factors.

3. The variety known as WB-102 has the lower right curve of the 0 doubled. Breen described this variety in his Proof Encyclopedia, and recorded at least two different examples.

4. The second variety described by Breen has the date extremely high in the field, with the top of the 1 nearly touching the base of Liberty. He recorded one proof example, in the World's Greatest Collection. Unfortunately, that coin was not plated.

5. Breen also mentioned a "shift variety" which apparently is nothing more than machine or strike doubling.

The following roster is guided by the above varieties:

1. Variety 1. PR66 NGC. The Kaufman coin.
Barney Bluestone (6/1947); John Jay Pittman (David Akers, 5/1998), lot 1539. The variety with the date sloping up to the right.

2. Variety 3. PR65. William M. Friesner Collection (Ed. Frossard, 6/1894); J.M. Clapp; Clapp Estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 1949. Variety with date sloping down to the right. Cataloged as a proof in the Eliasberg sale, but Akers suggests it is a prooflike business strike.

3. Variety 2. PR63 NGC. Heritage (6/2002), lot 7261.

4. Variety 4. Proof. Thomas L. Smith Estate (Stack's, 6/1957), lot 698; Stack's (8/1973), lot 171; Stack's (9/1989), lot 1233.

Additional Appearances:

A. Variety 2. MS65 Prooflike. Hollinbeck Coin Company (6/1953), lot 2030; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3151. This piece was purchased from Hollinbeck Coin Company as a proof, and identified as such by Breen in his Proof Encyclopedia, but described as prooflike by Dave Bowers in the Norweb catalog.

B. Variety 3. PR65. Anderson Dupont Sale (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 2137; Stack's (9/1999), lot 704.

C. Variety 3. Proof.Virgil Brand; Landau (New Netherlands, 52nd Sale, 12/1958), lot 580.

D. Variety 3. Proof. Lichtenfels Collection (Kreisberg and Schulman, 2/1961), lot 2831; R.E. Cox Collection (Stack's, 4/1962), lot 1921; Kreisberg Schulman (5/1966), lot 1200
E. Variety 4. Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1945), lot 300; 1946 ANA (Numismatic Gallery), lot 832. Not plated. Described as the high date with the top of the 1 close to the base, possibly variety 1, and not inconceivably the same as the Pittman coin.

F. Variety 5. Breen's "Shift Variety." Proof. F.C.C. Boyd; World's Greatest Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 1945), lot 301. An impaired piece, and probably not a proof.

G. Unknown variety. Proof. 1952 ANA (New Netherlands Coin Co., 8/1952), lot 324. Not plated.

The Pittman-Kaufman specimen exhibits superb light to medium orange-gold, cobalt-blue, greenish-gold, and violet toning. . The mirrored fields present a noticeable contrast with the devices, especially as the coin is rotated under a light source. The strike is for the most part solid, with excellent definition in Liberty's facial features, hair, gown lines, and foot. Some localized minor softness is noted on portions of the reverse arrow feathers. Light as-made roller marks cross Liberty's torso and breasts in an almost horizontal direction, and there is a small planchet imperfection on the wrist of Liberty's right (left facing) arm. What Akers calls a "water spot" is also visible between Liberty's head and the pole. As he indicates in the Pittman catalog, it "... is mentioned only for identification purposes and completeness of description since it does not constitute a defect, nor is it at all distracting." This truly spectacular coin will undoubtedly elicit the attention of the most discriminating Seated Liberty proof half dollar enthusiast.
From The Phil Kaufman Collection of Early Seated Proof Sets, Part Two. (NGC ID# 27TC, PCGS# 6394)

View all of [The Phil Kaufman Collection of Early Seated Proof Sets, Part Two ]

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Auction Dates
January, 2008
9th-12th Wednesday-Saturday
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato

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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