US Coins

Boylston Collection of Seated Liberty half dollars at Regency 48 sale

Legend Rare Coin Auctions continues its presentation of the Boylston Collection at its Regency Auction 48 in San Diego on Oct. 27 and 28.

The auctioneer describes the consignment as “an incredibly fresh collection of both Mint State and Proof Seated Liberty Half Dollars, collected over a period of over 20 years.”

With a top estimate of $100,000, an 1839 Seated Liberty, No Drapery at Elbow half dollar graded Proof 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service is among the top lots in the auction. It is one of around five known examples struck with a Proof finish. Consistent with the grade, the cataloger notes “a number of directional hairlines, lightly wiped perhaps ages ago,” before adding, “Steely silver coloration gives this nearly CHOICE specimen a nice look.”

The offered example is believed to have been discovered by Marc Emory in Europe in 1981 as part of a Proof set. It was previously certified Proof 62 by Numismatic Guaranty Co. and most recently sold at Heritage in January 2019 for $54,000.

Christian Gobrecht’s half dollar was first struck in 1839, in two design subtypes — the first has no drapery at Liberty’s elbow, as is this example, while the second subtype, which would continue the series, has added drapery, creating a more triangular form on the obverse.

David Hall wrote on the PCGS CoinFacts entry for the No Drapery issue, “Obviously this is a very rare proof issue and it has added importance as it is both the first issue of the Seated Liberty half dollar series and it is a one year only type coin.”

Proof strikes can be identified by a fine die crack through the base of HALF DOL., continuing faintly through the tops of MERICA on the reverse, though the reverse die was used for both Proof and circulation strikes. As Heritage has noted, “There are no characteristics that will aid in differentiating between proofs and business strikes, aside from the quality of production.” Legend praises the boldly mirrored reflective fields and razor sharp strike on the offered example.

Adding a motto in 1866

A highlight among the middle-date issues is an 1866-S Seated Liberty, No Motto half dollar graded Mint State 65+ by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. The coin is one of the finest-known examples from a low mintage of just 60,000 pieces struck before the new dies carrying the motto IN GOD WE TRUST arrived at the San Francisco Mint.

Legend writes, “Shimmering frosty brilliant surfaces have pearly silver that glows boldly all over. Wonderfully preserved, struck from clashed and cracked dies. Sharply struck devices stand out wonderfully. The eye appeal is exceptional in every way.”

This example was formerly in the collection of Eugene Gardner and sold at Heritage’s June 2014 Gardner offering, then-graded PCGS MS-65, where it realized $70,500. There, Heritage wrote, “A small mark on Liberty’s chin provides a hallmark for this rare San Francisco No Motto half, and confirms its position as third on the roster of finest-known examples of the issue.”

It has since been upgraded, and at Legend’s presentation it carries a top estimate of $75,000.

Near-perfect Proof half

From 1879 until the series was concluded in 1891, all Seated Liberty half dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Some of these late-date Proof coins are exceptionally beautiful, such as the Boylston Collection’s 1888 half dollar graded Proof 68 Ultra Cameo by NGC. Legend calls it “simply stunning,” and tells bidders that there is “No question this beast ranks as the FINEST KNOWN.”

The catalog entry adds, “Stark black and white DEEP CAMEO contrast is eye arresting and is nearly blinding. The deeply beaming mirrors are exquisitely well preserved and offer bold clarity and cleanliness. The fields are icy sleek with a bold, flashy reflection. The devices are thickly frosted and stand out in 3-D effect like an iceberg above the surfaces of a deep ocean. As expected for this amazing high grade, the surfaces are PRISTINE and the eye appeal is amazing.”

Legend suggests the near-perfect 1888 half dollar may find a home in a high quality type set and provides an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.

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