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    Superb Prooflike Gem 1795 LM-8 Half Dime

    1795 H10C MS67 Prooflike NGC. LM-8, V-5, R-3. Although not fully struck, this example is much sharper than most that we have seen. Only one or two others that have been seen in recent years are similar to this example for overall strike and quality. The obverse is sharply detailed with only a slight merging of the two lowest hair strands. All other design features, and especially those at the center, are boldly detailed. The reverse is equally bold, again with only a slight merging of the detail where the wing intersects the left branch, below T of UNITED. Due to the rotated reverse die, this point on the reverse is exactly opposite the slightly weak hair detail on the obverse. All other detail on the reverse is boldly defined, including the eagle's breast feathers which are almost never found with any definition. The obverse is cracked from the border to the digit 7, on to Liberty's neck and cheek, exiting just below the eye, and continuing to the right arm of Y and the border. This bisecting crack forms a small chip covering the top of the digit 7. Another short crack connects star 13 to the border. Fine hairlines cracks join the last four stars on the right, and a extremely faint branch of the first crack extends to Liberty's chin. A die crack on the reverse, through TED and described by Russell Logan and John McCloskey, is present but extremely light. In fact, this crack is so faint that it is easy to miss, even on such a high grade coin.
    The surfaces of this Superb Gem example are amazing. The fields on both sides are fully mirrored with the exception of a small area of mint frost on each side. On the obverse, this is adjacent to Liberty's neck and chin, and on the reverse, around the eagle's head and over the wing on the right. Much like the minor strike weakness on each side, these areas of mint frost are opposite each other on the two sides. Because the reverse die is rotated, there is no easy explanation as to the relative location of these frosty areas. The balance of the fields on both sides are fully prooflike, which was created by the striking process. These small areas of mint frost suggest that the flat surface of the fields on the die did not fully come in contact with the surface of the planchet, thus one die or both dies must have been sunken slightly in this area. This would suggest that one of these dies was lightly polished or lapped in this area, probably to repair minor damage, such as a clash mark. These details suggest that this is not a specimen or special strike, as much as we would like to think otherwise. In the 1998 Bowers and Merena catalog, the status of this coin was discussed: "Probably not a specimen striking, although we realize that such terms as specimen and Proof are often assigned to silver coins of the 1790s if they exhibit prooflike characteristics. Without entering into this controversy, it certainly is correct to say that the piece is very special in its superb quality, quite special in overall appearance."
    Today, we are certainly not suggesting that this brilliant and Superb Gem example is anything more than an incredible example of the 1795 Half Dime production. Perhaps it is one of the coins from the hoard mentioned by Walter Breen in his Proof Encyclopedia. He described a hoard of approximately 100 examples, including some of this die marriage, which was found in the late 1870s or early 1880s. The Wadsworth-Rea hoard included some examples that "have vaguely shiny or partly mirrorlike surfaces." Breen further noted that those coins are "generally weak in centers, central hair and breast feathers being flat." The exceptional strike on this example, however, might preclude its status as one of these hoard coins.
    Ex: Bowers and Merena (8/1998), lot 82.
    From The Jack Lee Collection, III(#4251) (Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# 22ZV, PCGS# 4251)

    Weight: 1.35 grams

    Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

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

    View all of [The Jack Lee Collection, III ]

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2005
    2nd-5th Wednesday-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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