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    1878-S Seated Half Dollar, MS64
    Remarkable Prooflike Rarity
    High Condition Census, Key to the Series
    Sole Finest Example With CAC Approval

    1878-S 50C MS64 PCGS. CAC. WB-101, Die Pair 1. This remarkable coin is fully struck throughout and the fields are prooflike, a trait common to some Mint State survivors of this low-mintage date, although the prooflike character is especially prominent on this example. The fields flash strongly through the reddish-gold toning that covers each side. Cameo contrast between the frosted motifs and reflective fields exists to an extent normally seen only on proofs or deeply prooflike business strikes. Distinctive royal-blue toning is seen on the obverse, and the same blue tones encircle almost the entire margin on the reverse, which also displays shades of red and orange-gold patina. An authenticating die marker present on all genuine 1878-S half dollars is plain on the coin -- a small reverse die chip at the top left of the leftmost vertical stripe. This exceptionally Choice example is pedigreed by a short mark in the left obverse field by star 3. Otherwise, the fields are undisturbed and reflective, with only a few delicate lines visible with a loupe.

    Variety: WB-101, Die Pair 1 -- the only die marriage for this rare San Francisco issue.

    Population Data (5/14): PCGS reports four MS64 and two finer, one each in MS65 and MS66. NGC show two each in MS64 and MS65. This piece is the finest example with the CAC green approval sticker as well as the only MS64 from either service with that distinction.

    Heritage Commentary: This example is simply a fabulous coin either for type or for an advanced collection of Seated halves. The pedigree dates back to the Charles H. Patten sale by Stack's in May 1973, where the present coin was described as:

    "1878 'S' Brilliant Uncirculated GEM. To call this coin proof-like almost does it an injustice. Were it not for the mintmark the cataloguer would have no hesitancy in calling this a Proof. It is needle-sharp in strike, and but for one tiny bagmark near the 3rd star the coin is absolutely flawless."

    Its earlier provenance is uncertain. B. Max Mehl described a coin in his sale of the William Cutler Atwater Collection in June 1946 as lot 628, "A Brilliant Proof Specimen of the Excessively Rare 1878 San Francisco Mint Half-Dollar":

    "While it has always been stated that no proofs were struck at any of our Branch Mints, I do not know what else to call this coin except a brilliant proof, as it is just that. Even the edges are sharp as on the proof. While this specimen may and may not have been purposely struck as a proof, and it may be just an early impression of the die, or one of the very early specimens struck, it is just as much a proof as I have seen. This date and mint is, of course, very rare in any condition."

    While we are unable to confirm if the Atwater coin is (or is not) the current coin, the description is appropriate for the prooflike appearance and quality the present coin displays. Obviously, a few exceptional prooflike coins were struck (perhaps for assay?) and of those, the current coin is one of the rare survivors. There is no doubt only a few examples exist in a comparable condition, and those that do are the "rarest of the rare" when it comes to this key Seated half issue. Just 12,000 pieces were originally struck. The 2009 monograph by Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert indicates 54 coins are documented in all grades, with perhaps 60 examples of the date extant in total. The present coin is listed third in their detailed Census. Certified in a green-label holder.

    Consignor Commentary: This is the Pryor coin, and it is unquestionably key to the set. Randy Wiley ranks this coin as the third finest known behind the Queller (now in Dallas) and T J Clarke (now Stellar) examples. The coin is so rare I feel lucky to have acquired one so fine. The surfaces of the coin are nearly unmarked. The luster is somewhat subdued and may account for the grade. In a green label holder. (Cataloger note: our consignor is known for his candor when describing his -- or any -- coin. In our opinion, the current coin does not lack luster or flash. It is reflective in the way of a beautifully toned proof, the luster and vibrant color fully revealed as the coin is viewed at an angle.)

    Provenance: Charles H. Patten Sale (Stack's, 5/1973), lot 418; James Bennett Pryor Collection (Bowers and Merena, 1/1996), lot 237; Dr. Robert W. Swan Collection (Bower and Merena, 3/2004), lot 1510; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2009), lot 2476.(Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 24KR, PCGS# 6360)

    Weight: 12.50 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2014
    23rd Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,810

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) 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.

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