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    Gem 1792 Half Disme
    One of the Finest Examples Known of This Historic Issue

    1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, MS65 NGC. For the past 150 years, these coins have intrigued collectors as well as Mint officials. Much has been written about the origins of the half dismes, some of it embellishment, some outright fabrication. The real breakthrough in research seems to have come in the past ten years, the results of which were published in the ANS' American Journal of Numismatics 15" for 2003. In that article, the authors, Joel Orosz and Carl Herkowitz, explore all aspects of the production of these first official United States coins. The article, "The Fabled 1792 Half Dimes," is well worth the effort for anyone interested in early U.S. coinage. The authors discovered an obscure reference to a tipped-in note that was discovered in a European coin book in 1943 and the contents of the note were subsequently published in The Numismatist. A subsequent misinterpretation of the author of the note by Charles McSorley, Jr. led to one of the major pieces of misinformation regarding the 1792 half dismes. McSorley misidentified the author of the note as officer and refiner in the Mint, Jonas R. McClintock. The signature was faded and only read J--Mc--. Orosz and Herkowitz identified the actual author of the note as John McAllister, Jr., a fascinating individual who was a close friend of Adam Eckfeldt, who was present at the striking of the 1792 half dismes. The actual content of the tipped in note reads,

    "In conversation with Mr. Adam Eckfeldt (Apr 9, 1844) at the Mint, he informed me that the Half Dismes above described, were struck, expressly for Gen. Washington, to the extent of One Hundred Dollars, which sum he deposited in Bullion or Coin, for the purpose. Mr. E. thinks that Gen. W. distributed them as presents. Some were sent to Europe, but the greater number, he believes, were given to friends of Gen. W. in Virginia. No more of them were ever coined. They were never designed as Currency. The Mint was not, at the time, fully ready for being put into operation. The Coining Machinery was in the cellar of Mr. Harper, saw maker, at the corner of Cherry and 6th Sts, at which place these pieces were struck."

    While the facts in the note above may have been well known to a small group in the mid-1840s, later retellings of the story stretched and greatly enhanced the basic facts until the present day, when it is still believed by many that Martha Washington was the model for the figure of Liberty, the coins were struck from Washington's Sheffield silver plate, only $75 worth of coins were struck, and that George and Martha were in attendance when the coins were presented. Skipping to the end of this masterful article, Orosz and Herkowitz conclusions are:

    The half dismes were not struck from sterling silver or silver-plated tableware but rather, as Eckfeldt states, from bullion or coin.
    The half dismes survive today at an unusually high rate, consistent with early presentation to at least some degree.
    The amount struck (1500 pieces or $75) is consistent with an initial deposit of $100, with the loss due to preparation.
    After the planchets were prepared, they were deposited with the cabinet officer in charge of the Mint. Jefferson personally delivered the blanks to the Mint to be struck, and the struck coins were returned to his care.
    Jefferson recorded all transactions regarding the 1792 half dismes as private records, not public records.

    As noted above, numerous half dismes were handed out as favors by George Washington, while others were shipped to Europe. This particular piece must have been highly prized by its owner, as it is in essentially the same condition as when it left John Harper's saw shop 113 years ago. The only difference is the addition of multiple layers of gray, blue, and golden toning over each side. Magnification shows a few light abrasions, but none that are worthy of individual mention. The striking details on the obverse are stronger than on the reverse. Also worthy of note is the absence of the planchet flakes that are usually seen on half dismes. This is one of the finest pieces known of this historic issue. NGC has only graded one other piece MS65 with two finer, while PCGS has certified one Gem with three finer (11/08).(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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    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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