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Auction #Rich2 > Lot #1388 > Classic U.S. Coins > Bust Half Dollars 1817/4 50c PCGS AU50 (O-102a) ex:Eliasberg DLRC #: 100963

Item Description:

The 1817/4 half dollar is one of the most famous and sought-after coins of any series. Despite nearly 75 years of publicity, a total of just 7 specimens are known. The present example is far and away the finest seen by a margin of 20 or 25 grade points. Although a major Guide Book variety this rarity has been missing from virtually every major collection formed. When Al Overton published his reference work on the die varieties of Bust half dollars, he used this exact coin for the cover of his book.

The coin itself is beautiful, with bright silver gray surfaces which are accented by attractive iridescent gold, blue and russet around the rims. As to the strike, it is generally sharp on the left side of the obverse, weaker on the right because of die failure. Note the die crack which extends from above Liberty's cap through her ear, down to the rim near the 7, this is what caused the obverse die to fail, and is the reason for the great rarity of this variety. Perhaps this crack was caused when the obverse die was reheated and reingraved with the digit 7 over the 4. Under normal circumstances the dies are engraved, then annealed or hardened by heating them to a very high temperature. Making changes to the die once they are annealed often causes the die to crack soon after coinage begins. The engraver made the mistake of adding the 7 to the obverse die, which apparently weakened the die and caused it to crack as soon as coins were struck (or perhaps the crack formed during the second annealing process).

Turning to the story of the coins discovery we note that E. T. Wallis of Los Angeles first reported the coin in 1930 in the editorial comments published in The Numismatist, page 689. In that note Wallis described the 1817/4 half dollar and stated it had been examined by Howard R. Newcomb of Los Angeles and M. L. Beistle of Shippensburg, PA (both experts die varieties and Beistle had recently published a die variety book on the Bust half dollar series in 1929) and both had declared it a hitherto unknown variety. Wallis described the coin as "practically uncirculated" and that the overdate can be seen plainly. Next Wallis advertised the coin in The National Catalog of U. S. Coins, p. 164. There he described the coin as "Extremely Fine" and offered it for $2,500, then a staggering sum. Wallis also noted that it had been in the same family collection since 1846 prior to him purchasing the coin.

While we cannot state with certainty that this is the present specimen is the Wallis coin, it seems to be very likely. The present specimen turned up in the Pratt collection according to Al Overton, who purchased the coin in 1951. Overton later sold this piece to Louis Eliasberg in 1953 for $1,500.

The Condition Census for this variety as published in the Eliasberg catalogue by the extensive research of both the late Stewart Witham and Sheridan Downey who have spent decades tracking these seven coins with further updates as noted in Stephen J. Herrman's Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized for Bust Half Dollars 1794-1839.

1). The present specimen and Finest Known, PCGS AU-50. Believed to be the discovery specimen reported in 1930 by E. T. Wallis, prior to that time in a family collection dating from 1846 until Wallis purchased the coin. Purchased by Al Overton from the Pratt collection in 1951, sold to Louis Eliasberg in 1953. Bowers and Merena's Eliasberg sale 4/97:1735; Superior's Suros sale 2/99:180; Bowers and Merena's 2003 ANA sale, 7/03:1443.

2). Witham specimen. F-15. Discovered by coin dealer Ed Johnson of Wooster, Ohio in the early 1940s; Stewart Witham 5/66; sold privately about 1983 to a private collector.

3). Meyer specimen. VF-25. Acquired by Al Overton in 1962, sold to Q. David Bowers and James F. Ruddy of Empire Coin Company, sold to Hazen B. Hinman. Next it appeared in Paramount's Century Sale, 5/65:1112; Bowers and Ruddy's Rare Coin Reviews #18-22 (1973-75). Acquired in 1975 by Gloria Meyer for her husband Charlton E. Meyer, Jr. and it still resides in his collection.

4). Overton specimen. G-6 (repaired). Discovered by New York dealer Edwin Shapiro in 1963-64, sold to Dan Messer for $1,500 in 1964-65; sold to John Cobb, offered at Cobb's California State Numismatic Association Sale 11/65 but not sold; sold with Cobb's hoard of Bust half dollars in 1969 to Steve Markoff; Markoff sold this coin to Al Overton in 1969. Overton had a scratch over the eagle's left wing repaired by a Kentucky coin repair specialist. Overton died in 1972 and this coin passed to his daughter and son-in-law who sold the coin in 1993 along with the balance of his specialized die variety collection to a private collector, where it remains.

5). Farley specimen.VF-20. Discovered by collector Thomas Pfeffer in 1967 and sold by Donald Taxay to Stewart Witham in 1968. Witham sold this coin to Floyd Farley where it was sold by Sheridan Downey in July of 2002.

6). Burke specimen. F-15. Discovered by Alfred E. Burke in 1973 in his collection where is apparently remains today.

7). Dosier specimen. F-12. Discovered by Milton Silverman in 1976, sold to Sheridan Downey in 1988 who sold it to Leonard Elton Dosier in July 1988. Dosier sold the coin in Sheridan Downey's MBS #22 10/98:268; next in Sheridan Downey's Crowley-Sel. Rarities 8/01:4.

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Sold For: $333,500.00

Coin Specs (Powered by Collectibles Technology Company. Learn more about CTC)

Category: Half Dollars
Series: Bust Half Dollars
Type: Capped bust, lettered edge
Years for Type: 1807-1836
Strike: Business
Denomination: Half dollar
Mint Location: Philadelphia
Designer: John Reich
Composition: 89% silver; 11% copper
Diameter: 32.5mm
Weight: 13.48g / 0.43oz

DLRC Auctions · Past Auction Records

Description Lot # / Auction Realized Date
1817/4 50c PCGS AU50 (O-102a) ex:Eliasberg 1388: Richmond Sale, Part II Login 11/30/04

Click here to view past auction records for all grades of this issue.

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