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    Description

    1878-S Seated Half Dollar, AU Details
    Prooflike Surfaces
    Legendary Issue

    1878-S 50C -- Improperly Cleaned -- NCS. AU Details. WB-101, Die Pair 1. The San Francisco Mint produced a meager 12,000 Seated half dollars in 1878. In addition to the paltry mintage, the attrition rate of this issue was exceedingly high for several reasons. To begin, silver coinage circulated heavily on the West Coast due to a popular distaste for paper currency and a booming economy. Bill Bugert further explains in his book, A Registry of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume I, San Francisco Branch Mint:

    "The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 is most likely responsible for this low survival rate because it required the Branch Mints to produce massive quantities of the new Morgan Silver Dollars to the detriment of minting lower denominations."



    Additionally, few collectors were interested in mintmarks prior to the 1893 publication of A.G. Heaton's classic, Coinage of the United States Branch Mints. Many simply sought to acquire a specimen of each date in their chosen series, regardless of the mint of origin. The result of these factors, as Heaton himself describes it, made a "great rarity" of the 1878-S. Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert estimate that of the original mintage, approximately 60 1878-S half dollars survive in all grades.

    With so few pieces minted, many surviving high-grade 1878-S half dollars are essentially "first strikes," coins that retain much of the initial die polish in the fields. In his sale of the Atwater Collection in June 1946, B. Max Mehl sold a similar coin in lot 628. The Atwater coin was undoubtedly a nice, high-grade example, but in the description Mehl exhibited his often-seen confusion about proofs and prooflike coins:

    "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."


    The lot realized $382.50, a very strong price at the time. In more recent times, the record price for an 1878-S half dollar is for an attractive MS64 PCGS example, lot 2476 of the 2009 Central States Signature, a coin that realized $184,000.

    This coin features an exceptionally sharp impression throughout and the surfaces show an undeniable prooflike appearance, with frosted devices contrasted against highly reflective fields. Faint, lavender-gray toning embraces the surfaces with steel-gray patination confined to the lower portions of both sides. As noted on the holder, signs of cleaning are seen in the form of scattered, wispy hairlines, though they do not overly detract from the overall appeal of the coin. Two minute ticks, one between stars 6 and 7, and another to the left of stars 11 and 12, serve only as distinguishing marks for later attribution purposes.

    This representative was offered during the sale of The Frog Run Farm Collection, conducted by American Numismatic Rarities. It was described as "A bright and sparkling prooflike example." We heartily concur.
    Ex: Frog Run Farm Collection (America Numismatic Rarities, 12/2004), lot 1322.(Registry values: N7079) (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, 2014
    5th-9th Tuesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 847

    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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