A 1792 half disme, graded Very Fine 25 by Professional Coin Grading
Service, highlights Heritage Auctions’ May 30 to June 3 Long Beach Sale.
The 1792 half disme was struck in the cellar of a Philadelphia saw
maker, though produced under Mint authority and under the control of
Mint officials, prior to the construction of the Philadelphia Mint facility.
The half disme (the latter word probably pronounced the same as
“dime” in its time, although some believe it may have been pronounced
as “deem”) is composed of 89.25 percent silver, 10.75 percent copper
and having a diameter of 16.5 millimeters/0.65 inch. Adorned with a
design by Robert Scot, researchers believe that it was minted at the
behest of President George Washington.
Legends surround the coin. One is that the portrait features Martha
Washington, though no definitive evidence supporting this assertion
has been uncovered. Another is that the silver used to produce the
half dismes was derived from silverware provided by President
Washington. However, many believe it more likely that the silver used
was actually a mix of silver bullion and foreign silver coins.
The purpose of the 1792 half disme has been the subject of much
debate, with some believing the coin was merely a pattern and not
meant to circulate, as it was distributed by Washington primarily to
his friends, family and various dignitaries, while others assert the
coin was minted for circulation purposes. Proponents of this theory
can point to the very few surviving examples that escaped the rigors
The Heritage catalog describes the coin, Lot 3418, Judd 7 (United
States Pattern Coins, Experimental & Trial Pieces by J.
Hewitt Judd, edited by Q. David Bowers), Pollock 7 (United States
Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III), as
follows: “Deep dove-gray toning consistently drapes both sides of this
desirable early Federal silver issue. A thin, curved scratch is
present from the N in INDUSTRY to the underside of Liberty’s jaw. A
significantly lesser thin mark crosses the cheek, and a small dig
affects the top of the forehead and causes a slight wave to the piece.
Much of the eagle is softly struck, but relatively sharp definition on
the tail feathers and the left (facing) wing affirms that the piece
has avoided heavy circulation wear. Liberty’s hair near the ear is
blunt, although the curls at the top of the head and above the
shoulders retain splendid inner detail. The peripheral legends are
Another coin in the sale of interest to collectors is a 1907
Saint-Gaudens, High Relief, Wire Rim gold $20 double eagle, Lot 5340,
graded Mint State 67 ★ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. According to the
NGC Census, only three pieces are graded MS-67 ★ with only six pieces
overall possessing better grades.
For more information on this auction and other numismatic offerings,
visit the Heritage Auctions website at www.ha.com; write the firm at 3500 Maple
Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219-3941; or telephone Heritage either
at 800-872-6467 or 214-528-3500. ■