Extremely Rare 1859 Transitional Half Dime
1859 H10C Transitional PR63 NGC. Breen-3096, Judd-232,
Pollock-279, Low R.7. The 10th edition of the Judd pattern
reference lists the Transitional half dimes as Judd-232, noting
that they are a "'Stateless' issue not giving the country of
origin." On the other hand, the current 2011 Guide Book
lists the coins as "Transitional Patterns" under the regular Seated
half dimes listing (rather than the Patterns section), reflecting
their dual nature. Nonetheless, they are popularly collected--when
found--alongside the regular Seated half dime issues.
Judd-232, PR63, The Norweb Specimen
Only 20 Pieces Estimated Struck
The Guide Book gives an estimate of only 20 pieces produced, all struck as proofs. They were made when the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was being transferred from the reverse to the obverse; accordingly, the Guide Book also calls them "Obverse of 1859, Reverse of 1860." In other words, the Stars Obverse design, similar to that used in 1856-1859, is combined with the "Stateless" reverse of 1860.
In point of fact, while the obverse is similar, it is a revision by Anthony C. Paquet, of 1861 Paquet Reverse double eagle fame. The stars around the obverse rim are hollow, Liberty's face is different, and her arms are longer and narrower.
The 1860 Transitional half dimes are considerably more available, produced as business strikes to the extent of perhaps 100 pieces. They too have the Stars Obverse as in 1859, with Reverse of 1860--"Stateless" coins again. Breen writes that Mint Director James Ross Snowden was responsible for the Transitional issues, "to provide collectors with something special, ostensibly for trades to benefit the Mint Cabinet collection of Washington coins and medals."
This example shows lovely original toning that clearly identifies it as the Norweb specimen, a coin that earlier was in King Farouk's vast holdings. Blended golden-brown and cobalt-blue intermingle with lilac and a couple of small silver-colored areas. Diagonal Mint-made die striations are prominent on the obverse, but neither side shows any evidence of contact. The strike is intricately detailed. Census: 2 in 63, 3 finer (6/10).
Ex: Palace Collections of Egypt (King Farouk-Sotheby's, 2/1954), perhaps within lot 169; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 359, PR63; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 2/2007), lot 2838, PR63 PCGS, which brought $40,250. (PCGS# 4440)
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