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1838'O' High Rarity-6

From Stack's October 2006 New York Auction, Session 1 on Oct 17, 2006

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Categories  •  Stack's October 2006 New York The George Byers Collection of U. S. Half Dollars, 1795-1964 United States Half Dollars United States Capped Bust, Reeded Edge Half Dollars
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1838'O' High Rarity-6. Extremely Fine. The surfaces are a gray color which are a trifle dull, but...1838'O' High Rarity-6. Extremely Fine. The surfaces are a gray color which are a trifle dull, but are enhanced by some peripheral gold toning. Examination will find trivial handling nicks from brief circulation, or this might be a coin which may have been a pocket piece for a short while. For identification, there is a small nick on Liberty's face below and behind her eye. Sharply struck as are all seen of this rare issue, and believed to be one of just 20 pieces struck in Proof to commemorate the opening of the New Orleans Mint. An example appears every few years at auction, but most are held in specialized collections for decades. Any collection or auction that includes an 1838'O' will always be considered an important and memorable event, and this date is one of the crowning achievements of an advanced Half Dollar collection. While the present coin may not be the finest to exist, it does have a wonderful pedigree.

These were apparently struck in early 1839 by Coiner Rufus Tyler to ''test the press''. A letter was found with an example sold in the Freisner sale of 1894 and this was reported in the The Numismatist April 1894 page 198 (Breen's Encyclopedia). Initial production of New Orleans Dimes began in 1838 but the coining press broke. Half Dollar production had to wait until the next year. The present coin has two reverse die cracks, a feature not usually found on a die where so few coins were struck. Obviously the reverse cracked early in its life. One die crack extends down through 'HAL' of HALF, the other crosses 'ER' of AMERICA. These cracks are present on the Pryor Collection Proof specimen as well, and possibly others.

Few coins achieve the status of an American numismatic classic to the degree of the 1838'O' Half Dollar. The New Orleans Mint issued quantities of silver and gold coins during decades of operations and many collectors are drawn to collecting coins from this specific Mint. A number of famous issues were struck there, not only the 1838'O' Half Dollar, but other notables like the 1853'O' No Arrows Half Dollar, the 1892'O' Micro 'O' Half Dollar and dozens of scarce to rare Coronet gold issues. As the 1838'O' was struck in Proof format and in such limited numbers during their first year the New Orleans Mint operated, this issue has become one of the most famous and desirable of all United States coins. It has earned its place as number 19 in the 100 Greatest U. S. Coins tome and is one of the most recognized rarities in all of American numismatics.

The known examples of 1838'O' Half Dollars were published by Walter Breen in his Encyclopedia in 1988 and has been updated here with help from the Eliasberg Sale catalog in 1997 and Steve Herrman's AMBPR. Dealer intermediaries are noted in the Eliasberg catalogue and most auction appearances are found below. The known specimens include the following:

1) Smithsonian Specimen. Proof, cleaned. Given to the Mint Cabinet Collection by Mint Director Robert M. Patterson in 1839.

2) Louis Eliasberg Specimen. Proof-60. Sold by Morton and Joseph Stack in 1942; Louis E. Eliasberg Collection (Bowers and Merena/Stack's, April 1997, lot 1911).

3) Cox specimen. Adolph Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, June 1950, lot 1073); Cox Collection (Stack's April 1962, lot 1873); Century Collection (Paramount, April 1965, lot 1151); Rare Coin Review #17 (Bowers and Ruddy, Spring 1973); Ellis H. Robison Collection (Stack's February 1982, lot 1605).

4) Norweb Specimen. Parmelee Collection (New York Stamp and Coin, June 1890, lot 655); Wilson Collection (Thomas Elder, October 1908, lot 346); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, November 1988, lot 3119).

5) Neil Specimen. B. Max Mehl's Sale, May 1945, lot 936; Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, June 1947, lot 580); James A. Stack Collection (Stack's, March 1975, lot 415); The 1982 ANA Sale (Ivy, August 1982, lot 2320); Auction '84 (Rarcoa, July 1984, lot 1666); David Queller Collection (Stack's, October 2002, lot 446).

6) Atwater Specimen. Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, June 1946, lot 555); Reed Hawn Collection (Stack's, August 1973, lot 122); Auction '79 (Superior, July 1979, lot 1569); James Pryor (Bowers and Merena, January 1996, lot 94); 2000 ANA Sale (Bowers and Merena, August 2000, lot 4117, not sold).

7) Baldenhofer Specimen. W. G. Baldenhofer Collection (Stack's, November 1955, lot 708); Robert Pelletreau Collection (Stack's, March 1959, lot 782); Charles Jay Collection (Stack's, October 1961, lot 181); Dr. Yale E. Clarke Collection (Stack's, October 1975, lot 253); Bryan Collection (NASCA, November 1977, lot 708, not sold); Auction '82 (Paramount, July 1982, lot 1689); PCGS PR64, Heritage Auction, June 2005, lot 6244 for $632,500.

8) Boyd Specimen.
The Present Specimen. Col. E. H. R. Green; Wayte Raymond; F.C.C. Boyd's ''World's Greatest Collection'' (Numismatic Gallery, April 1945, lot 410); The 1971 ANA Sale (Stack's, August 1971, lot 805); Dr. George Oviedo (Stack's, September 1983, lot 830).

9) Anderson-Dupont Specimen. Anderson-Dupont Collection (Stack's, November 1954, lot 2104); 1957 ANA Sale (Federal Coin Exchange, August 1957, lot 1535A); ''TAD'' Collection sold by Stack's; 1983 ANA Sale (Kagin's, August 1983, lot 2494); Dr. Jasper L. Robertson Collection (Mid American, May 1985, lot 382); 1986 ANA Sale (Kagin's, August 1986, lot 4567A); H. W. ''Woody'' Blevin's Collection (Superior, June 1988, lot 3367); Four Landmark Collections Sale (Bowers and Merena, March 1989, lot 2000); Vintage Auctions, August 1989, lot 202.

10) Empire Collection Specimen. Ferguson Haines Collection (S.H. and H. Chapman, October 1888, lot 483); Col. E. H. R. Green; Charles A. Cass ''Empire Collection'' (Stack's, November 1957, lot 1344); Jerome L. Cohen Collection (Kreisberg-Schulman, April 1967, lot 1065); Kreisberg Mail Bid Sale, June 29, 1970, lot 1044.

11) Guggenheimer Specimen. Guggenheimer Collection (Stack's, October 1953, lot 830).

Lot # 1097 Session 1
Hammer Price: $220,000.00

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