The only known example of the Overton 109 die marriage of the 1794
Flowing Hair half dollar in silver is headed to auction.
After decades off the market, that coin will cross the auction block
for the first time during Heritage Auctions’ April 22 to 27 sale. The
auction is being held in conjunction with the Central States
Numismatic Society 76th Anniversary Convention in the Chicago suburb
of Schaumberg, Ill.
The silver coin in the CSNS auction was recently graded Very Fine 25
by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
The 1794 silver half dollar variety is part of the Liberty U.S.A.
Collection, Part II, originally assembled by numismatist and author
Robert P. Hilt II, and has been kept off the market until now.
First found in copper
Until the silver version was reported late in the 20th century,
“This die pair was previously known only in the form of two copper
impressions; one of which is housed in the Smithsonian Institution,
and the other in a museum in Vienna, Austria,” said David Mayfield,
vice president of coin consignments at Heritage. “It is an incredible
rarity and one that sets the stage for what we think will become a
very successful auction event in Chicago.”
The copper pieces are die trials — pieces struck from production
dies in the wrong metal (copper, for example, instead of silver). The
copper trial pieces were likely struck to test the dies.
What is interesting about the die marriage is that only one piece
has ever been identified as having been struck in silver, and it was
not identified by a numismatist until the late 20th century.
The unique silver O-109 1794 Flowing Hair half dollar, according to
Heritage, was unknown to numismatic researcher Al C. Overton for
inclusion in the 1967 first edition or 1970 second edition of his
reference Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836. Hilt
initially described and illustrated the silver example of the O-109
die marriage in his 1980 work, Die Varieties of Early United States Coins.
A die variety or marriage is the pairing of two specific dies,
obverse and reverse.
According to uspatterns.com, the Austrian museum copper die trial
was discovered in July 2004 in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna,
having been gifted to the museum in 1920 by an S. Schwarz.
Hillery York, a collections specialist for the National Numismatic
Collection in the Smithsonian Institution, says the O-109 half dollar
copper die trial in the NNC was donated in 1976 by Benjamin, Harvey
and Norman Stack.
The edge of the Smithsonian’s copper die trial has only the letters
OLLA legible from FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR, the other letters
having been worn off, York says.
Anna Fabiankowitsch, a curator of the coin cabinet at the
Kunsthistorisches Museum, said the edge device on the copper half
dollar in its collection reads ✶ ✶ FIFTY ✶ ✶ [-] o[-] CENTS ✶ ✶ ✶ OR ✶
✶ [-] o [-] HALF ✶ ✶ A ✶ ✶ DOLLAR ✶ ✶ L oo. The last two O’s are intertwined.
The edge die used on the copper die trial in the Austrian museum
appears to replicate the ornamentation seen on the edge of the unique
silver 1794 Flowing Hair, O-109 half dollar.
After seeing an image showing the edge of the silver version of the
O-109 coin, Bust half dollar specialist Bradley Karoleff says the edge
appears to be slightly blundered with overlapping symbols at the
beginning/end of the inscription.
The rectangles with lines in them, represented by brackets and the
hyphens in the description, and the small circles with dots in them
are ornamental figures, Karoleff said.
The edge devices were incused, using a Castaing machine.
According to Professional Coin Grading Service, the Castaing machine
“imparted edge lettering to blanks before striking. It consisted of a
bench fitted with parallel bars each containing half the edge
lettering, set apart minutely less than blank diameter,
spring-mounted, one fixed, the other set to move forward while
remaining the same distance from the fixed bar, actuated by gears and
long handle. Each blank was caused to go through this machine, ideally
without slipping, though in practice slippage accidents were frequent,
producing blundered inscriptions (overlapping). More rarely, a
lettered blank would be run through a second time.
“The Castaing machine became obsolete with introduction of the close
collar,” notes the PCGS.
More from CoinWorld.com:
doubled die obverse confirmed on 1919 dime exciting
mint goes global with groundbreaking coin shape
Baltimore time capsule believed to contain coins
largest-ever gold hoard discovery reported at ancient harbor
marks in error on gold American Eagle coins, only two different
coins have them
to share your thoughts on this story.
Keep up with
all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by
signing up for our free eNewsletters
liking us on Facebook
following us on Twitter
. We're also on