US Coins

Bidding underway for Missouri Curio Cabinet of Half Cents

Bidding on the Missouri Curio Cabinet of Half Cents began Oct. 28 and continues to Nov. 8, in an Internet sale conducted by Heritage Auctions.

The collection is offered in a specially cataloged Internet sale at (Sale 131599).

The 80 half cents are from the combined collection of Eric P. Newman and R. Tettenhorst, with a special collection name selected to distinguish these coins from the primary Missouri Cabinet sale held last year, according to Heritage.

The Missouri Curio Cabinet of Half Cents auction offers various pieces, including error half cents, popular die varieties, and more. The coins are graded and slabbed by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. with the Missouri Curio Cabinet pedigree on the slab’s label.

The following three pieces all offer an interesting story; each is “imperfect,” though with “imperfections” that add to the charm and collectability of what are called these “little half sisters.” One coin was struck on a bad planchet, another depicts a distinctively placed damage to the obverse die, and a third has a botched date.

1793 Liberty Cap half cent with obverse lamination

The copper half cent, like the copper cent, was issued during the first full year of production for the federal Mint at the national capital of Philadelphia. Unlike with the copper cent, with its three distinct design types in 1793, the first year’s production of copper half cents all had the same design — a Liberty Cap design on the obverse showing a Flowing Hair Liberty portrait facing to the left, with a Liberty cap topping a pole resting over her right shoulder.

Production of the half cent began in July with 7,000 pieces delivered by the coiner on July 20. The second delivery, 24,934 pieces, was made on July 26. A third and final delivery of 3,400 coins was made on Sept. 18 before the Mint was closed because of a yellow fever epidemic gripping the city. Total mintage for the 1793 Liberty Cap half cent was 35,334 pieces.

Four distinct die marriages were issued, all cataloged by Cohen numbers from the standard reference by Roger S. Cohen Jr. The example in the auction is the Cohen 4 marriage, which is believed to have represented the entirety of the Sept. 18 delivery. The die variety marries the second obverse die with the third reverse die (distinctive die markers resulting from the hands-on approach to die making in 1793 permits individual dies to be identified).

The coin in the Missouri Curio Cabinet bears a large lamination crossing the obverse face of the coin. Laminations can occur when impurities captured within the structure of a planchet can cause flakes and sheets of metal to separate from the surface. The lamination[FL1]  on this coin is “wide and deep,” affecting “nearly half of the obverse surface,” according to the catalog description. The flaw encompasses Liberty’s hair, the 93 of the date, and portions of the word LIBERTY.

The early Philadelphia Mint had continued problems with its copper planchets for the half cent and cent for its first few decades; the planchet flaw on the coin could be related to those problems, though laminations can appear on any denomination.

The catalog adds, “Elsewhere on both sides, this piece displays smooth olive-brown and tan surfaces.” The coin is graded About Uncirculated 58 brown by NGC and Very Fine 20 under the standards of Early American Coppers, a specialty club for collectors of pre-Mint and early Mint U.S. copper coinage. EAC standards assess the coin in a different way than is done by the major grading services.

The coin was once owned by Roger Cohen. It was sold in a Stack’s auction in February 1972 and again 20 years later in Superior’s auction of the Cohen Collection in February 1992. The coin was described as “Probably Uncirculated or very nearly so” in the Stack’s auction, where it brought $525. It was described as having the “sharpness of Extremely Fine 40” in the Superior auction.

1804 Draped Bust, Spiked Chin half cent

The year 1804 is a legendary one for United States coinage.

The 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar (not struck until 1834 and again in the 1850s and later) is a classic rarity, of course, with just 15 examples known among three different classes. When one sells today, it always has a price tag of millions of dollars.

The 1804 Draped Bust cent is considered by collectors to be another classic rarity, with an estimated (though uncertain) mintage of 96,500 pieces, small for a cent even by the standards of the early 19th century (as examples, the mintage for the 1803 Draped Bust cent is an estimated 3,131,691 pieces; the 1805 cent, 941,116 pieces). The 1804 cent, all struck from a single die marriage, is in high demand among large cent collectors due to the combination of low mintage, minimal availability, and a legendary date.

The level of demand for the 1804 Draped Bust half cent may not be quite the same as for the cent. The mintage was much higher than for the cent, at 1,055,312 pieces, making it a much more affordable piece today. Catalogers have identified a dozen die marriages, several of them using the same damaged obverse die that gave the half cents struck from it a colorful nickname: “Spiked Chin.”

Obverse die 1, as it has been cataloged, was used with different reverse dies in striking several die marriages before something happened to change the face of the die and created the damage that gives the coins their nickname.

A raised horizontal projection or “spike” protrudes from Liberty’s chin, with a second smaller projection protruding from Liberty’s lips like a tongue. A series of curved parallel lines appear in the field in front of Liberty’s neck, from just below her chin to just above the drapery on her bust.

Various theories have been floated to explain the anomalies, with the most likely being that the die was damaged when a small threaded bolt fell onto it during a striking cycle, according to Walter Breen’s book on half cents.

The Spiked Chin half cent in the Missouri Curio Cabinet auction is from the Cohen 8 die marriage, one of four marriages to use that obverse die after it was damaged. The same die was also used in other marriages before it was damaged, with the Cohen 4 and Cohen 4a varieties representing the same die pair, the C-4 coins being those struck before the damage and the C-4a coins being from the die state that followed the mishap.

The coin in the auction is graded MS-63 brown by NGC and About Uncirculated 50 according to EAC standards. The catalog states: “This splendid type coin has lustrous tan surfaces with delicate blue patina on Liberty’s profile.”

1809/6 Classic Head half cent, 9 Over Inverted 9

Many of the details on the dies of the earliest U.S. coinage were added by hand, either punched in or engraved directly into the die, though major design elements like the portrait and wreath used on the first copper coinage were probably hubbed into the die.

This hands-on process created many charming design flaws, among them the oddity that makes the Cohen 5 marriage for the 1809 Classic Head half cent so interesting. When the date was punched into the obverse die, the 9 punch was inverted when first applied to the die, with the result appearing as a 6 instead of a 9. The engraver noticed the error, repositioned the punch correctly and struck it with a mallet a second time. The result was what collectors call an overdate: a 9 punched over a 6 (or inverted 9, for accuracy).

This obverse die, the fourth for the date, was used only for the Cohen 5 marriage, apparently. The botched date did not lead to rejection of the die since die steel was a very valuable commodity and the Mint staff was unconcerned about creating die varieties that collectors would later prize.

The 1809/6 Classic Head half cent in the auction is graded MS-64 brown by NGC and AU-55 by the cataloger using EAC standards. The cataloger writes, “Full cartwheel luster is evident on the lovely light brown surfaces with splashes of blue-green toning.”

For more details on the auction, go to the Heritage website,




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