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    1792 Half Disme, VG10
    Historic Pre-Mint Issue, Judd-7
    Certified Presentation Letter Accompanies the Lot

    1792 H10C Half Disme, Judd-7, Pollock-7, R.4, VG10 NGC. The story of the 1792 half disme is well-known to numismatists today. Authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, the coins were struck in the cellar of Philadelphia sawmaker John Harper before the First United States Mint was ready for operations in its own building. President George Washington gave his approval for the coin's production on July 9, 1792 in a letter to Mint Director David Rittenhouse and Thomas Jefferson deposited the bullion for the striking on July 11. Two days later, Jefferson noted in his personal account book, "Recd. from the mint 1,500 half dismes of the new coinage." George Washington mentioned these first official U.S. coins in his November 6, 1792 State of the Union Address:

    "In execution of the authority given by the Legislature measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our mint. Others have been employed at home. Provision has been made of the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has also been a small beginning in the coinage of half dimes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them."

    Although the 1792 half dismes were clearly intended to be a circulating issue, they have traditionally been collected with the pattern series, as well. The historical importance of this issue cannot be overestimated and the inclusion of a specimen is a mark of distinction for any collection.

    Although the general history of the 1792 half disme is familiar to most collectors today, it is seldom possible to establish the individual history of a specific coin that extends as far back as the pedigree of the present specimen, which can be established by a presentation letter that accompanies the lot. The first owner-of-record of this piece was Levi Willard, who was born on November 4, 1802, just 10 years after the coin was struck. Willard was born in Petersham, Massachusetts but spent most of his adult life in Decatur, Georgia, where he was a school teacher and a Presbyterian elder. He later moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he died on February 11, 1884. How Willard obtained the coin is unknown, but it certainly circulated for some time before he acquired it. The letter indicates he prized the coin because it was some kind of birthday memento. Apparently 1792 was the birth year of his second wife's mother, and his birth year was the tenth anniversary of the coin's striking. Perhaps his parents saved the coin for him, or he may have sought an example for himself because of the date.

    In any case, Willard gave this piece and the presentation letter to his granddaughter, Mary Brain, as a present for her sixth birthday on December 5, 1872. In some fashion, the coin and letter passed to her sister Jessie, and she left it to her niece, Mary Brain Beach, who was born on August 28, 1911. The letter, which is backed by what appears to be linen fabric, and the coin's original envelope have been certified by NGC.

    This coin is evenly worn and lightly abraded for the grade. The design elements are complete in outline, aside from a portion of the eagle's right (facing) wing. The date and all lettering remain legible. The only mark of note is a scrape in the left obverse field and the overall presentation is quite attractive.(Registry values: P9)

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

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    12th-16th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 18
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,820

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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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