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Auction Name: 2021 April 22 - 25 Central States US Coins Signature Auction
Lot Number: 5008
Shortcut to Lot: HA.com/1329-5008
1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, XF45 PCGS.
There is no question that the half dismes of 1792 are some of the most storied, iconic, and important coins in all of U.S. numismatics. Traditionally, they have been classified as patterns, but the research of Pete Smith, Joel Orosz, and Len Augsburger strongly suggests that 1792 half dismes were actually made and distributed for use in the channels of commerce, handed out by none other than Thomas Jefferson.
The long-standing argument for the half dismes being pattern coins rested on a few key points. At the time they were struck, the Mint building had not yet been completed (the half dismes were struck in the basement of Philadelphia saw maker John Harper), and Mint officials had not yet posted their legally mandated bonds. However, the authors of 1792: Birth of a Nation's Coinage
(2015) argue that the Mint is not a building, it is an institution, and that Chief Coiner Henry Voigt and other workmen were engaged in coinage operations as of July 9, 1792. They write:
"The records are clear that Thomas Jefferson delivered $75 at the mint to be coined on July 11, 1792. Then on Friday, July 13, he picked up 1500 half dismes that had been coined. According to the Act of April 2, 1792, this was coinage and it was legal tender."
Smith, Orosz, and Augsburger have confirmed two striking periods (July and October). The contexts for each production period may differ, so it is possible those struck in October were produced for presentation, while those minted earlier were produced for circulation. They conclude:
"Perhaps [1792 half dismes] should be designated as something else. These were prototypes of American coinage, intended to demonstrate the ability to produce circulating coinage but in quantities insufficient to have an impact on commerce."
An estimated 250 1792 half dismes have appeared in the marketplace. This Choice XF representative, produced during the first striking period based on the lack of cracks or other die defects, is in the upper tier of confirmed circulated survivors. There are only a couple of obverse planchet flakes (as struck), which are often seen. That side is deeply toned in blue-gray patina, while the reverse features even apricot-tan color. Generally well struck with just a bit of softness noted on the design high points, including the reverse lettering. Adjustment marks occur across the central reverse and the lower-left reverse rim.Ex: Karl Scheible Collection / Pittsburgh Signature (Heritage, 8/2004), lot 5615.From The Gibney Family Collection.