US Coins

‘Outwardly attractive’ 1802 Draped Bust half dime

A recently released book by the late Dr. Jon P. Amato (1940-2017) focuses on a single issue: the 1802 Draped Bust half dime. The issue is without a doubt the key early half dime, but as the book’s introduction points out, “Despite its notoriety as a classic numismatic rarity, less is known about the 1802 half dime’s mintage and survival rate as compared with many other rare American coins.” The “Red Book” used to list the mintage as 13,010, but now lists it as 3,060 since it is unclear if all of the half dimes struck in 1802 were dated that year. All of the known examples were struck from a single die pair, and Amato identified 32 distinct coins from studying auction catalogs and dealer fixed-price lists from the 19th century onwards. 

Here’s another of three 1802 half dimes sold at auction since 2014:

The Lot:

1802 Draped Bust half dime, Very Good 8

The Price:


The Story:

Problem-free is a relative term when applied to well-circulated examples of the 1802 Draped Bust half dime. This one, graded Very Good 8 by PCGS, is described as “Outwardly attractive,” with both sides “richly toned in a blend of original dove and charcoal gray.”

1808-quarter-eagle-1793-chain-cent-leadThe September 2017 cover feature explores “one-year wonders,” designs that lasted just a year or less, many of which are now coveted delicacies. Other topics include how to value unique collectibles, and an outline of the history of what "paper money" is printed on, from mulberry bark to plastics.

The 2014 auction catalog entry also notes, “There are few abrasions that we deem distracting to the unaided eye, although there are concentrations of pin scratches over Liberty’s bust on the obverse, as well as throughout much of the reverse. These typical and minor imperfections are old and toned over.”

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On other, not-so-rare issues, the heavy scratches at Liberty’s bust might result in the coin receiving a details grade. But for these super-rare early issues such imperfections are more forgivable. This example was discovered in the late 1970s among a small accumulation of coins, housed in a leather pouch with a spring-loaded closure, that belonged to a local farmer on the upper Eastern shore of Maryland. It is called the February 2014 Americana Sale Specimen and listed on page 34 of Amato’s book.

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