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    Unique 1794 O-109 Half Dollar, VF25
    Obverse Overton Plate
    Early Die State

    1794 50C O-109, R.8, VF25 NGC. Ex: Hilt Collection. Overton Plate Coin. The obverse of this unique half dollar makes no other appearances in the series, and is the plate coin for the third, fourth, and fifth editions of the Overton reference. The obverse is also plated in Die Varieties of Early United States Coins by Robert P. Hilt, II. The reverse of the present coin, which is shared with Overton-105, does not appear in any edition of the Overton reference, nor in the Hilt reference.

    The obverse die is unique to the O-109 die marriage. There are six obverse dies for the 1794 half dollars. Four of the six have the lowest curl joined to star 1, and two dies have the lowest curl joined to star 2. Those two dies are Obverse 3 of O-105, 106, and 111, with the lowest star on the right pointing above the bust tip, and Obverse 6 of O-109, with that star pointing below the bust tip. The combination of obverse die features is sufficient to identify O-109.

    Both dies appear perfect, with no die cracks, clash marks, sinking, or lapping. That observation alters the presumed emission sequence, as the Overton reference illustrates a late die state of the reverse die from a different coin. It would be easy to assume that the O-109 reverse is a late state from that illustration, but that is not the case.

    Two separate emissions exist for the 11 die marriages known for 1794. One group includes O-103, 104, and 110, all from obverse die 2. The second group consists of a connected sequence of the other eight varieties, coined from various combinations of five obverse dies and four reverse dies. A possible sequence for the long group is: O-111, 109, 105, 107, 108, 106, 101, and 102, although some variables are uncertain due to the low grade of surviving examples. Die state evidence suggests that the short group was coined in the Overton number order, 103, 104, and 110, and it likely preceded the long group.

    Robert P. Hilt, who discovered this variety from the present coin that has remained in his collection for several decades, wrote a pamphlet in the late 1970s titled: The United States of America's Rarest and Most Valuable Coin. In his article, Hilt proposed an emission sequence very similar to that suggested above, although O-110 and O-111 were unknown at the time. He placed the short group first, and suggested the following: 103, 104, 109, 105, 106, 107, 108, 101, and 102. The cataloger's sequence and the Hilt sequence differ only in the placement of O-106, either before or after 107 and 108. The analysis in the Hilt pamphlet shows that he was a serious numismatic student.

    Smooth light gray surfaces on both sides exhibit delicate bluish patina, with lighter gray devices. The strike is nicely centered with full obverse and reverse borders. A faint depression below the bust line and another at the top of the date are not clash marks, but rather creases that occurred at a later date. Both are minor imperfections that have no effect on the appearance nor importance of this half dollar.

    The 1794 O-109 half dollar is unique in silver, although two copper impressions from the die pair are known, and are cataloged as Judd-17. The two copper examples are in museums, one in the Smithsonian Institution, and the other in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum. Both are illustrated at

    Hilt cherrypicked this coin sometime in the late 1970s, but we have no knowledge of the earlier ownership. The present sale is the first time the 1794 O-109 has been offered for public bidding competition.
    From The Liberty USA Collection, Part 2. (NGC ID# 24E6, Variety PCGS# 39211, 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.

    View all of [The Liberty USA Collection, Part 2 ]

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    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    22nd-26th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 61
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    The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato

    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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