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    1792 Half Disme, Remarkably Well-Preserved MS61
    Historic Memento of the Pre-Mint Era

    1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, MS61 NGC. The United States Mint operates some of the most technologically advanced and secure facilities in the world. Such was not always the case, however. The Mint had modest beginnings, to say the least. Unlike the modern-day fortresses from which our coinage now flows, the first coins struck after the passage of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792 were produced in a basement -- that of Philadelphia saw-maker and blacksmith John Harper.

    Little is definitively known about Harper. He was born around 1743 and worked with Albion Cox at the Rahway Mint, where they were involved in the production of the New Jersey coppers of 1786-1788. A July 1788 Philadelphia Packet newspaper article places Harper in that city on July 9, marching in the Grand Federal Procession to celebrate the 4th of July and the ratification of the Constitution a few weeks prior. John Harper's workshop was located at the corner of North Sixth and Cherry streets, and his machinery was used to coin the half dismes while the Mint buildings were still being acquired and renovated. It was there that Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson delivered $75 worth of silver on July 11, 1792 to be coined into half dismes. Jefferson recorded in his account book two days later: "Recd. From the mint 1500. half dismes of the new coinage."

    Few other details are known about John Harper, a man instrumental in the creation of this nation's first circulating coins. Local cemetery records show that a Harper died on February 26, 1796. A notice from June 9, 1796 regarding the settlement of his estate was published in the Philadelphia Gazette on July 6. It read:

    "NOTICE. All persons having demands against the estate of John Harper, saw-maker, late of this city, deceased, are requested to bring in their accounts for settlement; and those who are indebted to said estate, are desired to make immediate payment to MARY HAPER, administratrix, or THOMAS WOOD, acting administ."

    There is always more to learn about John Harper and the coins struck in his basement, but there are also several incontrovertible truths. The 1792 half dismes represent the first official coinage of the United States. Every example that appears on the market, no matter the condition, generates widespread interest and strong prices for their historical and numismatic significance. We expect no different from this offering.

    This impressive Mint State specimen exhibits a glossy gray patina on both sides with undertones of lilac, blue, and gold. The planchet is in remarkable shape and shows only a couple of tiny voids, one on each side, rather than the numerous such areas seen on some survivors. The strike is never complete on this issue, but here it is well-executed, with good articulation on most details and only minor softness limited to the hair over the ear on the obverse and the always-weak central eagle details on the reverse. The piece has obviously been carefully preserved in the 225 years since its production, with a faint, diagonal scrape through the lower bust the only mentionable abrasion. Census: 4 in 61, 34 finer (6/17).
    Ex: Richard Burdick and Chris Napolitano; Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis; Boston Signature (Heritage, 8/2010), lot 3063, realized $143,750.(Registry values: P9) (NGC ID# D93T, PCGS# 11020)

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    2nd-6th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 27
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,010

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Numismatic Background and Census of 1802 Half Dimes: A Classic American Rarity
    This 64-page book cites mintage and rarity estimates by prominent numismatists and documents the currently known 1802 half dime appearances. Each of the 32 documented examples includes an enlarged obverse/reverse photograph, the author's assigned grade, the provenance of each coin, auction prices realized or dealer fixed asking price, and a unique serial number for each specimen that will facilitate retrieval for research, cataloging, or price-information purposes. Reserve your copy of this remarkable volume for just $29.95 today.
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