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    Description

    Historic 1878-S Half Dollar, VG8
    Key to the With Motto Seated Halves

    1878-S 50C VG8 NGC. The rarity and fame of the 1878-S half dollar are not based on its mintage of 12,000 pieces, but rather on its unavailability. Although there is no direct documentary evidence to support the claim, it would seem logical that passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878 was more than coincidental in explaining the rarity of the 1878-S half. The reason for the transition to silver dollar production and the omission of half dollars is explained in Breen (1988): "Why silver dollars rather than small change? Because each silver dollar was heavier than two halves, four quarters, or 10 dimes." While this may seem like a minor point on the surface, when one considers that the Treasury was required by the Bland-Allison Act to purchase between 2 and 4 million ounces of newly mined silver each month, the differences between striking smaller denominations and silver dollars adds up quickly. Since the Bland-Allison Act was passed February 28, 1878, it is safe to assume that the 12,000 1878-S half dollars were struck prior to that date, and no more followed. Only one die pairing was used, and all authentic coins show a die chip (seen on the coins as a lump) high in the recessed area between the left edge of the reverse shield and the first set of vertical stripes.
    The availability of 1878-S half dollars in any grade is far less than even the mintage of 12,000 pieces would indicate. According to Bill Bugert's A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume I, San Francisco Branch Mint, "Circulating coinage was heavily used and consumed by the booming California economy of the late 1870's. Consequently, the few 1878-S half dollars that entered circulation were quickly worn and eventually discarded." It is estimated that 60 or so coins are known, but to date (6/10), the two major grading services have only certified 38 coins in all grades, and the grade range is wide, from Fair 2 to MS66. Approximately half of the certified coins known are circulated. The 1878-S is important to collectors for two reasons: It is the final half dollar of the Seated Liberty design produced in the San Francisco Mint, and, much more importantly, it is the undisputed key to the With Motto half dollar series. In fact, in the entire series only two other coins are rarer, the 1853-O No Arrows and the 1847/6.
    The surfaces of this piece are unremarkable and typical for a heavily circulated Seated half dollar. Even wear is seen over the design elements and the lighter gray motifs are surrounded by deeper gray accents at the margins. For pedigree identification we note a nick on Liberty's left (facing) arm, another in the right obverse field, and a planchet flaw at the tips of the upper left leaves on the reverse just below the end of the eagle's left (facing) wingtip. This is only the third time this coin has been offered at public auction. It was a newly discovered example when it was sold four years ago in an ANR auction. Sure to be of interest to a wide audience of buyers, not only of Seated halves but also of 19th century U.S. rarities as well.
    Ex: Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 642, where it brought $34,500.(Registry values: N4719)

    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
    August, 2010
    11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,083

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    15% 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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