US Coins

Stellar 18th century half dimes headline Legend Regency Auction 43

A duo of 18th century half dimes is set to take the top lot positions at Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Feb. 25 Regency Auction 43 sale in Las Vegas.

The little denomination began being produced for circulation with 1794 Flowing Hair coins, preceded by a modest production 1792 half dismes that is considered a pattern issue, although many did circulate in early America. The half dime denomination continued until 1873 and followed the same general designs as on the larger denomination U.S. silver coins. The Flowing Hair obverse type was used in 1794 and 1795.

These early silver half dimes are tiny coins that weigh just 1.35 grams and measure 16.5 millimeters in diameter. The denomination was authorized by the Act of April 2, 1792, but the 1794-dated coins were not struck until February 1795, and while the mintage of the 1794 half dime is not recorded, the number for both dates struck is recorded as 86,416. Of these, Legend’s offering of a 1795 half dime graded Mint State 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker is among the finest of the type.

Legend praises the “off the charts” eye appeal, observing, “Ultra impressive visually, this coin’s wonderful toning is the first thing that catches the viewer’s gaze. The colors, ranging from deep rose and teal-blue have rich accents of gold and original silver towards the rims.” It appeared at market recently, realizing $79,313 at Legend’s December 2019 sale. It carries an estimate of $70,000 to $80,000 in the new auction.

The denomination continued with the Draped Bust half dimes in 1796, with the Small Eagle reverse used in 1796 and 1797 and the Heraldic Eagle reverse utilized from 1800 to 1805. Legend’s offering of a 1797 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dime with 13 stars on the reverse, graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker, is important as it is the second-finest known of the die marriage. The entire mintage of the variety was struck from a single pair of dies — classified as LM-4 in the book Federal Half Dimes 1792–1837 by Russell Logan and John W. McCloskey. Perhaps 40 are known today. A sole Mint State survivor is known, and Legend praises the quality of the offered example, calling it, “Just a hair’s breadth away from being a full Mint State grade.” The cataloger observes, “Any wear is invisible to the naked eye and is barely perceptible even with a powerful loupe, and in this writer’s opinion, we feel the grade is more due to a slight weakness of strike in the centers than to actual wear.” Overall, it benefits from a bold strike.

Legend states that the consignor paid “a whopping $125,000” for it in a private purchase and estimates it at the $85,000 to $100,000 level, cautioning bidders, “We expect a world record price to be realized when this coin crosses the block, clearly the published levels are incorrect and irrelevant when figuring your bid for this magnificent early half dime!”

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