Spectacular 1838 Seated Liberty Half Dollar Pattern
1838 P50C Seated Liberty Half Dollar, Judd-80 Restrike,
Pollock-87, High R.7, PR65 NGC.
One of the Finest of Three Traced
Judd-80 Restrike, PR65
Design. The obverse design is a slightly modified Seated Liberty motif, with the rock larger, the stars spaced differently, and Liberty's drapery rearranged. The word LIBERTY is incused on the scroll. The date is in the exergue. The reverse features a "defiant" eagle, clutching an olive branch and six arrows, with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around and HALF DOL. below. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.
Commentary. Experts agree Judd-80 is a restrike issue, coined long after 1838. Andrew Pollock states the issue was coined in 1858 or later, but allows for the possibility that some original strikings may exist. USPatterns.com's experts doubt that any originals exist and believe the reverse die was not even completed until the late 1860s or early 1870s. A. Loudon Snowden mentions finding a large group of dies and hubs on hand when he assumed the position of chief coiner. Per Snowden, "Among the number were several from which no pieces are known to have been struck. Many of the devices were beautiful in design and exquisite in execution. This was particularly the case with a dollar and half dollar hub by Gobrecht."
Snowden asserted that these items were destroyed in the spring of 1869, but the veracity of this statement is dubious. A hub trial of the eagle on the reverse of Judd-80 survives in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian. It is listed as Pollock-3058. Pollock states that the hub used to strike this trial still exists. It is fascinating to think the half dollar hub Snowden mentions might have been this very hub of the Judd-80 design. It would have been a simple matter to use such a hub to create dies for this beautiful pattern in 1869, just the time frame envisioned by USPatterns.com for the completion of the die.
In support of the theory that Judd-80 had a late production date, the piece was completely unknown before 1875. The first auction appearance was in the Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 420. Cogan's described the lot as, "1838 Half Dollar. Liberty seated. Rev. Flying Eagle, holding in its talons six arrows and an olive branch. Underneath, Half Dollar. This variety has never before been offered at auction. Only two or three are known to exist, rarer than either of the preceding. Beautiful proof." Dealer John W. Haseltine purchased the lot for $10.50. Haseltine seems to have had an affinity for this design. The first auction appearance of Judd-81, the same design in copper, occurred in his Coin Sale (Haseltine, 2/1877), lot 559. Perhaps Haseltine liked the coin he acquired from Cogan and used his influence at the Mint to get a few examples struck in copper. It is only speculation, but it would not be out of character for Haseltine and the Mint under Henry Linderman.
Whatever its origin, Judd-80 is a rare and beautiful coin. We believe only three or four pieces exist, nearly the same estimate Cogan made 133 years ago, and the present example is one of the finest. We expect spirited bidding as advanced collectors compete for this numismatic treasure.
Physical Description. The present specimen features a better than average strike for this issue. For some reason, all known examples of Judd-80 have some softness on the central devices. The peripheral devices are strong, with crisp detail on the hair and star centrils. Most of each side is brilliant, with a thin ring of blue toning around the margins. A shallow, scimitar-shaped mark from Liberty's arm to star 6 serves as a pedigree marker. NGC has graded only one specimen at the PR65 level, with none finer, and PCGS has certified no proof examples of Judd-80 at the Gem level (11/08).
Census. We believe this roster includes all known examples of Judd-80:
1. H.P. Smith Collection (S.H. and H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1324; John Story Jenks Collection (H. Chapman, 5/1921), lot 5585; Anderson Dupont (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 2415; ANA (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 3597; Crouch Collection (Superior, 6/1977), lot 448; Auction '90 (Rarcoa, 8/1990), lot 882; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 9/1999), lot 1083. The present specimen.
2. Parmelee Collection, (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 36; Woodside Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1892), lot 26; Numismatics, Ltd.; Harry Bass, purchased on August 12, 1974; Harry Bass Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/1999), lot 1150.
3. Stewart Witham; Auction '81 (RARCOA, 7/1981), lot 319; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1998), lot 2036.
Other Appearances. These appearances may duplicate citations above, but conclusive evidence is lacking:
A. Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 420.
B. Virgil Brand; Dr. J. Hewitt Judd; The Illustrated History of United States Coins (Kosoff, 1962), lot 111.
From The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two. (NGC ID# 2972, PCGS# 11332)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two ]
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