1796 Draped Bust quarter served up at Heritage’s Long Beach Expo auction

Rare 1877 $50 gilt pattern once owned by Egypt’s King Farouk will also be on the block
By , Coin World
Published : 08/28/14
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Multiple rarities highlight Heritage’s auctions held during the Long Beach Expo, Sept. 4 to 6. The U.S. coin sessions, including a Premier Session with nearly 600 items, include more than 4,400 lots overall. Additional auction sessions feature paper money and world coins.  

One of the largest items offered is an 1877 gilt copper $50 pattern, nicknamed a “half union.” Two design types exist, and one of each design was struck in gold. Others were struck in copper and some were gilt, although it is unclear whether the gold plating was done at the U.S. Mint at the time of production or later elsewhere. 

Inspired by California slugs

The inspiration for the $50 patterns came from gold $50 “slugs” produced in California in the 1850s, and Mint Superintendent Henry Linderman (an avid coin collector) likely produced this issue as a pet project. The two gold “half unions” are housed at the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution where they are a collection highlight. 

The offered piece is numbered Judd-1549a in United States Pattern Coins, Experimental and Trial Pieces and is graded Proof 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service. 

Heritage notes that this specific example’s early history is unknown, but it appeared in a 1948 B. Max Mehl sale and later was in the massive collections of Egypt’s King Farouk. 

For reference, a different example graded Proof 64+ Cameo by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. brought $282,000 at Heritage’s Jan. 10, 2013, Florida United Numismatists auction. 

1796 Draped Bust quarter

The first-year-of-issue 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollars have received substantial attention in the marketplace since Eric P. Newman’s superlative example graded Mint State 67+ with an NGC ★ brought $1,527,500 at a Nov. 15, 2013, Heritage auction.

1796 represented the first year of the quarter dollar denomination, and the Draped Bust obverse combined with the Small Eagle reverse would constitute a one-year type, as the denomination would not be issued again until 1804, then with a Heraldic Eagle reverse. 

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