US Coins

Market Analysis: 1838 half dollar pattern tops off a collection

Many advanced Capped Bust half dollar collectors end their collection with a few of the patterns produced in 1838 that build upon the Capped Bust design. Listed as Judd 72 in the pattern reference, these were struck in silver with a reeded edge and feature a medallic turn (where the obverse and reverse have the same orientation).

Heritage writes, “For many decades, the obverse design was attributed to William Kneass, but Gobrecht was almost certainly the engraver, as the portrait bears a close resemblance to the gold eagle also introduced in 1838.” Art historian Cornelius Vermeule observed, “It is almost impossible to follow the details of this so-called Liberty,” noting “a coronet like a riveter’s shield” and adding, “The drapery of the bust can only be described as timid and unnatural.” He concluded, “It resembles a nightgown at the chest and thin armor on the shoulder,” before calling the reverse’s eagle, “cold observation.”

Perhaps 50 to 60 are known from an unknown mintage. This one, graded Proof 64+ by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, sold for $8,400 in Heritage's sale of the third part of Dale Friend’s collection of Capped Bust half dollars this August.

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