US Coins

Exceptional and rare half dollars in Las Vegas

Three exceptional Capped Bust half dollars are among the stars in Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ upcoming Regency Auction 28.

The sale is set for Sept. 26 and 27 at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as part of the Professional Coin Grading Service Members Only show. 

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Carrying the highest estimate in the sale at $300,000 to $350,000 is an 1817/4 Capped Bust half dollar graded PCGS Very Fine 35 that is a legend among the 453 die varieties listed in Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794–1836 by Al C. Overton. It is the second finest of 11 examples known and was offered at Sotheby’s and Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Sept. 30, 2015, auction featuring selections from the D. Brent Pogue Collection (Pogue II) where it sold for $282,000 on an estimate of $250,000 to $300,000. 

The Pogue description noted, “A non-specialist will look at this coin and see the most worn coin in the entire D. Brent Pogue Collection, an attractive Very Fine in a cabinet full of superlative Mint State specimens. A specialist in this series will see the pinnacle of Capped Bust half dollar collecting, a choice specimen of the greatest and most famous rarity in the series.” 

While there are a few technically rarer Overton varieties among Capped Bust half dollars, the Pogue catalog observed, “None of these is imbued with a mystique that transcends the world of the self-identified ‘Bust Half Nuts,’ and none is a distinctive overdate variety that is readily identifiable to the unacquainted.” 

The 4 digit is clearly visible under the 7 in the date and the die cracked early in its life, contributing to the variety’s rarity today. The Overton 102 number is used for examples struck before the die cracked, while O-102A is used for those showing the obverse die crack. The offered coin is the finest known O-102 1817/4 half dollar. 

More examples may await discovery, as did four that emerged in recent years, but the Pogue catalog accurately summarizes this coin’s appeal, writing, “Not every coin with personality is rare, and not every rare coin has personality. The most important American coins combine mystique with scarcity, usually in distinctive and eye-catching fashion. The 1817/4 half dollar sits at the pinnacle of one of the most popular specialties in American numismatics.” 

The subject coin has served as the plate coin for several Overton editions, and Legend concludes, “This is a very rare opportunity that should not be taken for granted. Once this coin is sold, it will likely disappear into the black hole of major coin collections.” 

Among the finest known

Two gorgeous high-end Mint State Capped Bust half dollars are also returning to the auction block. An O-114 1807 Capped Bust, Large Stars half dollar graded Mint State 65 by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker is estimated at $160,000 to $180,000. It was offered at Heritage’s November 2013 auction of the Eric P. Newman Collection where it was graded MS-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and carried a green CAC sticker, and brought $152,750. Since that sale, it was crossed over to a PCGS holder. 

1807 marked the first year of the Capped Bust design as the Philadelphia Mint transitioned away from the Draped Bust obverse design that was first used on half dollars in 1796. Just four different Overton die varieties are recorded for the 750,500 1807 Capped Bust half dollars, with one of them, the O-114 variety, distinguished by small die lumps below the 7 in the date and overlapping lower arrowheads on the reverse. 

Legend calls its example stunning, writing, “Both sides are set ablaze with a vibrant, mint luster that radiates strongly throughout the brilliant silver centers surrounded by rings of vivid golden, teal, and lavender toning.” 

An O-103 1808 Capped Bust half dollar in the Legend auction, graded PCGS MS-67 and possessing a green CAC sticker also is pedigreed to the Pogue II auction where it sold for $88,125 on an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. 

The Pogue catalog stated that the “coin is one of the most spectacularly preserved specimens of the entire design type,” adding, “Whether at arm’s length or under magnification, the impression is of nearly perfect preservation.” Legend placed an estimate of $90,000 to $100,000 on the ex-Pogue O-103 half dollar, which it calls “a miracle of numismatic survival.”

Capped Bust half dollar dies often saw heavy use and the subject coin was struck from dies that had been clashed and lapped to remove the clash marks. This resulted in fine cracks and weak stars that blend into the dentils in some areas. The Stack’s Bowers Galleries cataloger observed in 2015, “One wonders if the grade assigned wouldn’t be still higher had this piece been coined from different, fresher dies. It would be hard to conceive of a way this coin could be prettier, nicer, or better.”

The cataloger took great care in describing the unique color, writing, “Impressive, totally original toning dominates on both sides, but is not dark or thick, allowing the satin glow of the mint frost to shine through. The obverse displays a lovely mix of peach and gold with shades of pastel blue and violet near the rim. The reverse shows original brilliant silver that offers highlights of gold infused with bright blue and magenta in the protected areas toward the periphery.” 

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