Splendid Gem 1859 'Two-Headed' Half Dollar Muling
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-253, Pollock-292, High R.7, PR65
Judd-253, One of Perhaps Six Known
Design. The design is, as Judd puts it, a "curious muling" of what are actually two obverses, the Paquet Liberty Seated with Fasces and the James B. Longacre (?--see below) French Liberty Head. Obverse 1: A homely, disproportionate Liberty is seated on a rock, shield at her lowered right (facing) hand and holding the top of a fasces in her left hand. An olive branch and three arrowheads lie--curiously so--under the shield. Thirteen stars encircle the rim. Obverse 2: Liberty with an elongated neck faces right, a scroll reading LIBERTY wrapping irregularly at the bust truncation. She has an elaborate floral wreath in her hair, and the tall, thin, stilted letters characteristic of Anthony Paquet spell out UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the rim. The date 1859 appears in exergue on both sides. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.
Commentary. This is strictly a fantasy piece, with "two heads and no tails"--although therein lies a tale. Saul Teichman of USPatterns.com writes that "these were possibly struck in 1859 as an example of this was offered as lot 1185 of Bangs and Co.'s April 1865 sale of the Joseph N.T. Levick collection." Teichman adds the interesting comment that he questions whether the French Head, traditionally attributed to James B. Longacre, was really designed by Anthony C. Paquet, as the design here uses the characteristic Paquet letter punches. USPatterns.com estimates there are a half-dozen pieces known, but three are impounded, presumably permanently, in museum collections.
Similar Paquet-style letters, with tall, fat uprights, narrow letter widths, and tiny horizontals, would two years later be famously employed on the 1861 and 1861-S Paquet Reverse double eagles, regular issues although rare. This is one of the many patterns that may have been created as "trade bait" for the recently formed Mint Cabinet, as the period 1859-60 seems to have been a heyday of such activity, which had only recently gone underground.
Physical Description. This splendid Gem features an extremely sharp strike that clearly articulates all the lines in the shield and fasces, as well as all the strands in Liberty's hair. Blushes of gold and rose are a bit stronger near the rims. In PR65 this piece is tied for the finest certified at NGC with another example, but PCGS shows four pieces ranging from PR65 to PR67 (10/08).
Provenance. Ex: Saunders Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1987), lot 459.
From The Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two. (NGC ID# 29D2, PCGS# 12012)
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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