1794 O-105 Flowing Hair Half Dollar, Exceptional AU58
1794 50C O-105, T-3, R.5, AU58 PCGS. CAC. Tompkins Die State
1/2. This coin has a "wow" factor that is undeniable, with
sharpness and surface quality seldom seen on any Flowing Hair half
dollar, regardless of date or variety. The fact that it is a 1794
half with such outstanding quality is nothing short of amazing.
Variety specialists will quickly notice the position of stars 1, 2,
and 15 and know it is not the expected O-101 or O-101a variety, but
an O-105. This is, indeed, a wonder coin.
The Former Eliasberg Specimen, High Condition Census
Lightly Toned, Colorful, and Still Lustrous
The early Mint struggled mightily in its first year of striking both dollars and half dollars. From planchet preparation to screw press operation to the proper annealing of dies, it was a learning process. A large mintage of 1794 silver dollars was planned, but the existing screw press was inadequate for the job and production quickly ceased after striking 1,758 useable pieces. 1794 half dollars filled the void and became a workhorse denomination of United States commerce.
Uncirculated and borderline Uncirculated 1794 halves are far rarer than their mintage of 23,464 pieces suggests. They are of equal-to-greater rarity when compared to 1794 Flowing Hair dollars in that regard -- not just proportionally by mintage, but in an absolute sense. There are more 1794 dollars in Mint State or nearly Mint State than 1794 half dollars in the same grades.
The present coin is a legendary near-Mint specimen from the Eliasberg Collection. Among its O-105 peers, it vies with one other coin at the top of the O-105 Census for the variety. That piece is a deeply toned example, formerly from the Cardinal Collection and graded AU58+ PCGS, having previously resided in an MS62 NGC holder.
In contrast, this piece is lightly toned. It displays a lovely mixture of translucent-gold, light-blue, and lilac toning that imbues both sides with softly glowing eye appeal. Struck from a middle die state, the sharply struck surfaces show traces of die clashing on both sides (not mentioned in the Tompkins reference). A faint die crack runs through the first T in STATES. We note a scattering of microscopic lines beneath the toning and minor abrasions that detract little from the smoothly reflective fields and bold devices. Light wear exists at the bust truncation and at the eagle's breast and legs, where a few light adjustment marks remain across the lower half of the eagle's torso, not fully eliminated by the strike.
This remarkable 1794 half dollar is a centerpiece for any specialized half dollar collection, and an exemplary representative of first-year type. It carries a pedigree that is among the most-desired of all numismatic lineage, with the eye appeal and technical quality that is seemingly unsurpassed for its date and variety.
Ex: Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 1662; Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 547, which realized $253,000; Amherst & Waccabuc Collections (Stack's, 11/2007), lot 2003, which brought $287,500. (NGC ID# 24E6, Variety PCGS# 39206, Base PCGS# 6051)
Weight: 13.48 grams
Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.
This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.
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