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    Delightful 1792 Half Disme, VF25 PCGS

    1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, VF25 PCGS. There has been so much written about these coins, incorporating fact and fiction, that it is difficult to know just what to believe. It is time for this cataloger (MRB) to add my own five-cents worth.
    We actually know very little about these coins. The knowledge that we can actually accept as fact is limited to the following: they were produced prior to November 6, 1792; they were not struck within the physical structure of the Mint building, which was still under construction; most survivors are in low grade, or are damaged, with very few higher grade examples known. George Washington discussed these coins in his "State of the Union" address of November 6, 1792, thus showing that the coins were struck prior to that date. These coins were not produced at the Mint building; however, were almost certainly produced within the city of Philadelphia, at another location where coining equipment existed. As most survivors are in low grade, or are damaged, or both, we can make an assumption that these coins actually circulated at the time of issue. Had they been intended as pattern coins, most survivors would probably be in much higher grade. The majority of survivors from the remaining 1792 coinage issues are in relatively high grade, thus suggesting that they had been preserved as keepsakes. The wording of Washington's November address, "There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dimes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them," along with the physical evidence of low-grade survivors, provides considerable evidence that these coins were, in fact, intended for circulation.
    Everything else "known" about these coins is speculation at best, or pure fiction at worst. Such speculation includes the following statements: these coins were struck in John Harper's cellar; the mintage was between 1,500 and 2,000 coins; Martha Washington's likeness appears on the obverse; George and Martha Washington provided their personal silverware or dinnerware as a source of silver. Perhaps these coins were struck in John Harper's cellar. On April 9, 1844, Dr. Jonas McClintock reported on a conversation he had with Adam Eckfeldt regarding these coins: "In a conversation with Mr. Adam Eckfeldt today at the mint, he informed me that the half dismes were struck at the request of General Washington to the extent of One Hundred Dollars which sum he deposited in Bullion or Specie for the purpose - Mr. E thinks that Gen. W. distributed them as presents - some were sent to Europe but the greater number of them he believes, were given to acquaintances in Virginia - no more of them coined except those of Gen. W. - they were never designed as currency. The Mint was not at the time fully ready for going into operation - the coining machinery was in the cellar of Mr. Harper's saw maker at the corner of Cherry and 6th Streets, at which these pieces were struck." Some consider this statement to be the documentary evidence needed to substantiate the "facts" about these coins. These "facts" were based on the memory of 75-year old Adam Eckfeldt about events that had occurred half a century earlier. While Eckfeldt recalled that all of these coins were struck for George Washington, totaling 2,000 coins, a July 13, 1792 entry in the account book of Thomas Jefferson states that he received 1,500 of the coins. These two reports seem to be conflicting, and are the basis for mintage figures of 1,500 to 2,000 coins. But which is correct? Or, are they both correct and were their actually 3,500 of these struck?
    This specimen is very attractive with sea-green and iridescent toning in the obverse fields, and grayish-orange color on the devices. The fields and devices on the obverse have numerous tiny scratches and abrasions, yet these are so effectively masked by the natural coloration that they can hardly be seen. The reverse fields have grayish-gold color with iridescent toning. Like the obverse, there are numerous tiny imperfections beneath the toning. There appears to be evidence that this example may have been bent at one time; however, this is so slight as to be trivial. This 1792 half disme provides a remarkable opportunity for the advanced numismatist, or the collector who just want to own one. Come take a look and place a bid.(#11020) (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 Dates
    November, 2004
    4th-6th Thursday-Saturday
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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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