US Coins

Market Analysis: Top New Orleans Mint Barber half dollars

A “Micro-O” 1892-O Barber half dollar graded MS-67 sold for $132,000, while the finest-known 1894-O half dollar, graded MS-68, realized $72,000. Both were graded by PCGS and carried green CAC stickers.

All images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

The Larry H. Miller Collection auction by Stack’s Bowers Galleries featured some stunning Barber half dollars, led by a 1892-O Barber, Micro O half dollar graded Mint State 67 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that realized $132,000.

The cataloger summarizes: “Most numismatic scholars accept that this variety was created when a Mint employee inadvertently used an O mintmark punch for a quarter dollar in preparation of a half dollar die.” It was published in Augustus G. Heaton’s 1893 book Mint Marks, which popularized collecting coins by Mint mark and not just date. Today, perhaps 100 survivors are known in all grades.

A few lots later came the finest-known 1894-O Barber half dollar, graded MS-68, in an older, green-label PCGS holder with a green CAC sticker, that sold for $72,000. Its provenance is traced back to the New Orleans Mint in November 1894 when it was acquired by John M. Clapp and spent much of the 20th century in the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection.

Bowers and Merena noted in its 1997 Eliasberg auction catalog, “Lustrous, frosty surfaces with delicate champagne toning at the center changing to splashes of gold and blue at the rims,” before calling it, “A simply elegant example of an issue which is a major condition rarity at this grade level.”

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