Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar, MS64+
    By Far the Finest-Known Mint State Example
    O-101a, Sharp and Beautiful Surfaces
    Ex: Pogue-Simpson

    1794 50C O-101a, T-7, High R.3, MS64+ PCGS. CAC. Ex: Pogue-Simpson. While any first year of issue has its own irresistible mystique and numismatic magnetism, the 1794 half dollar stands apart as the first year of what was arguably the country's most important silver denomination. It was also important in its role as part of the official inauguration of Robert Scot's two-year Flowing Hair type, as well as a highly visible "coming out" for the Mint's implementation of required coinage under The Mint Act of 1792. The Continental Congress was watching, as were all of those who lobbied for private coiners and many other interested observers throughout the world.

    Moreover, 1794 was the Mint's first experience striking large denomination silver coinage for mass circulation. Understandably, the Mint opted to make the 1794 dollar a showpiece of the new country's currency. Silver deposits were sufficient for the effort, but the fledgling Mint's equipment was simply not up to the task. Just over 2,000 1794 silver dollars were struck, but more than 10% of those were unacceptable, leaving a net mintage of 1,748 pieces. Such a small mintage was hardly enough to handle the demands of commerce.

    The silver dollar was too big for the screw press to do its best work. By the time the Mint authorities settled on "Plan B" (striking half dollars in lieu of facing more waste and delays trying to produce silver dollars), the end of 1794 was quickly approaching. The half dollar assumed monumental importance for the Mint and commerce.

    Rising to the task, the Mint moved ahead with speed, although it continued to struggle with several production limitations. The half dollar diameter was more suitable for the coin press, but the Flowing Hair design remained a challenge to strike. And, the Mint's lack of experience in annealing and hardening the dies took a toll. The first pair of half dollar working dies produced hardly any coins at all before the obverse failed. A new master die was employed, and it was not until early in 1795 any reasonable production success was accomplished for 1794-dated half dollars.

    Among them was the remarkable 1794 half dollar offered here. This coin's last appearance at auction was in the Pogue Part I sale, where the text noted "the first 1794 half dollars, presumably including this example, were delivered the same day as the 1794 dollars, on October 15, 1794." If Mint delivery records are to be believed, this was clearly not the case.

    In fact, the first half dollars struck did not deliver until December 1, 1794 when 5,300 pieces were received -- a documented record that dispels any thought that the 1794 half dollars were delivered at the same time as the first 1794 silver dollars.

    A second delivery of an estimated 18,164 pieces followed on February 4, 1795. These coins were probably all 1794-dated half dollars, accounting for the balance of the 1794 mintage that is generally accepted today. From that mintage, about 800 examples survive in all grades and varieties combined. The states were starved for circulating coinage, and the much-needed half dollars were quickly absorbed into the economy. Later in 1795, an additional mintage of nearly 300,000 half dollars was struck. All of those coins were dated 1795.

    Six obverse dies and seven reverse dies were utilized for 11 documented 1794 die combinations. A single edge die was employed. Die breakage consumed six of the 13 dies almost immediately. As a result, 10 of the 11 1794 die pairs rank R.5 or higher in rarity. By far, the O-101 (Tompkins-7) die pair (High R.3) supplies the lion's share of 1794 half dollars, as well as the only Mint State examples certified.

    The Pogue-Simpson coin represents the Mint's finest work on any 1794 half dollar. It comes from the most resilient die marriage of the date. While Overton's O-101 number leads many to believe the variety was one of the first die pairs struck, the coin was actually produced after six other die pairs were employed (as indicated by Steve Tompkins' T-7 variety designation). The obvious conclusion is this exact coin was not minted until early 1795. Somewhere above 60% of all surviving 1794 halves are from this die pair, known as the only truly serviceable die pair for the issue. The obverse was in its first use, while the reverse had three prior appearances.

    This coin is in a late die state according to Overton's O-101a definition, and indeed the diagnostic reverse die cracks are present for that determination. A loupe reveals a heavy die crack below the first S in STATES that extends through the leaves below, while an inherited die crack through F in OF turns upward at the leaves and runs through the top wreath leaf point to the second S in STATES. An even later die state is possible with biplanar die sinking, but that is not seen on this coin. The obverse, as always, is in its perfect state for the variety.

    Inconsistency of strike visits virtually all 1794 half dollars, yet this coin is exceptionally sharp throughout both sides. The F.C.C. Boyd sale of the World's Greatest Collection of United States Half Dollars took note in the coin's April 1945 appearance as lot 2:

    "Stars, small and sharp; Rev. The die crack thru F in OF is heavier and is extended. A superb uncirculated specimen. Extremely rare."

    On the obverse, there are few tell-tale signs of any weakness whatsoever. Two or three stars show only a brief hint of rounding - amazingly, the rest are sharp. The date numerals, Liberty's hair strands at the top of the head and temple, and the bust tip are sharply defined. Lustrous iridescence illuminates subtle shades of lilac, rose, and sea-green amid wisps of silver-gray and gold undertones. The reverse is sharp as well, witnessed by the presence of a few faint adjustment marks that are nearly entirely eliminated by the bold strike. The coin is extremely well-balanced on each side, with consistent luster and delicate coloration throughout both sides, augmented by a semi-reflective sheen that flashes at the borders.

    Jimmy Hayes, who owned this coin as well as the Lord St. Oswald-Ostheimer 1794 dollar, believed his 1794 half dollar was the rarest first-year-of-issue among any silver denomination in Mint State. Time has proven him correct in many regards, although the number of surviving Uncirculated examples is about equal to the number of Mint State 1794 dollars. At the high end of the grading spectrum, his opinion is especially on point, since there is no clear-cut finest-known among the 1794 silver dollars, which has a top-end trio of coins that are of nearly comparable quality.

    The Pogue-Simpson coin is head and shoulders above all others both aesthetically and technically. This Plus-graded and CAC endorsed near-Gem 1794 half dollar simply has no equal, and knowledgeable early half dollar specialists are sure to appreciate its enormous significance.
    Ex: F.C.C. Boyd Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 4/1945), lot 2; unknown intermediaries; a half dollar specialist in Chicago; Jimmy Hayes Collection (Stack's, 10/1985), lot 50; The E. Richard Collection (Stack's, 10/1989), lot 693; RARCOA to Douglas Noblet, by sale, March 1993; Douglas Noblet Collection (Bowers and Merena (1/1999, lot 1; D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part I (Stack's Bowers & Sotheby's 5/2015), lot 1095; Bob R. Simpson.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 24E6, Variety PCGS# 39201, Base PCGS# 6051)

    Weight: 13.48 grams

    Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

    View all of [Important Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part III ]

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2021
    20th-24th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 43
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,737

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    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.

    Order Now! Just $59.95

    Sold on Jan 20, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item