US Coins

Stellar half dollars featured in Legend’s Regency 60 auction

Two San Francisco Mint Walking Liberty half dollars were stars in Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ Regency 60 sale on July 27.

Leading bidding was a 1921-S Walking Liberty half dollar graded Mint State 64+ by Professional Coin Grading Service and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that sold for $64,625. It was a rare, high-end survivor, as most of the mintage of 548,000 entered circulation. Legend praised its “incredible” eye appeal, writing, “A thick, frosty mint brilliance is dusted over by a delicate antique russet-gold and pearly-pewter.”

The issue is known for being softly struck. Q. David Bowers noted in his Guide Book to the series that the eagle’s feathers are only partially defined on even the best strikes seen, with the eagle’s left leg being typically weak. This one shows just a bit of weakness at Liberty’s hand, as is typical.

The 18 graded MS-65 by PCGS are rarely seen, placing added pressure on these MS-64+ representatives. A deeply toned example graded MS-65 by PCGS realized $78,000 in a May 5, 2022, Heritage auction and one with a green CAC sticker and less toning brought $117,500 at Legend on Sept. 27, 2018.

The year 1916 marked the first year of Adolph A. Weinman’s new design for the half dollar. Examples from all three Mint facilities — Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco — show unusually flat rims, which, as Bowers points out, “frame the design elements nicely.”

The 1916-S Walking Liberty half dollar is the scarcest of the three, with the low mintage of 508,000. Legend presented one graded MS-66 by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker that brought $52,875.

It had previously sold at Heritage’s January 2018 Florida United Numismatists auction for $43,200, where the catalogers noted, “Minimally toned surfaces display vibrant mint frost that combines with a pale overlay champagne color on each side, accented by splashes of olive-green and pale lilac.”

Legend commented on its technical appeal, observing, “Sharply struck up devices and very minimally abraded (you need a strong glass to locate the minor ticks well hidden in the design elements).”

Beautifully toned Pan-Pac

One of the most beautiful coins in the sale was a 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition half dollar. Graded MS-67+ by PCGS and bearing a green CAC sticker, it sold for $32,900.

The strike is bold, the luster full. Legend praised, “rich verdant, teal, azure, rose, tangerine, and deep orange-yellow iridescent toning,” explaining, “The strong luster really makes the colors on the obverse beam boldly off the surfaces, giving this SUPERB GEM a lot of POP!”

It is one of 31 in this grade at PCGS, but few display such aesthetic toning, especially on the obverse designed by Charles E. Barber. The reverse, by George T. Morgan, has less color.

The issue is also noteworthy as the first commemorative half dollar to carry the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

To put the bold price in perspective, a similarly graded example with less intense rainbow toning, also carrying a green CAC sticker, realized $9,693.75 at a 2022 Legend sale.

Is this Proof a pattern?

An 1836 Capped Bust, Reeded Edge half dollar graded Proof 62+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. is one of around a dozen believed to have been struck from the Philadelphia Mint’s new steam-powered coining presses, which generated both a uniform diameter and edge reeding. These Proof strikes were struck alongside 1,200 regular issue half dollars produced on the new steam press.

These are sometimes classified as pattern issues and are listed as Judd 57 in Dr. J. Hewitt Judd’s reference United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces, where he called the issue a “transitional piece, [of the] type adopted in 1837.” Judd reasoned in the 1977 edition, “Since the Act authorizing a half-dollar of this weight was not passed until January 18, 1837, the estimated 1200 struck with the date 1836 are patterns and not regular issues. All of the proofs and uncirculated specimens are from the same dies.”

PCGS CoinFacts addresses the fluidity of categorizing these as patterns or regular issues, observing, “The application was inconsistent and may have been driven by market forces — the designation that was worth the most was often the one that was chosen.” The most recent edition of Judd’s book addresses this, writing, “Regular issue. Not a pattern but by tradition often collected along with the pattern series.”

On the offered coin Legend wrote, “Boasting richly and deeply toned surfaces that retain quite a bit of watery-textured reflection in the fields, this PR62+ looks to be totally original,” adding, “The devices are chiseled sharp and stand out against the surrounding fields.” It sold for $27,025.

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