Incredible 1797 C-2 Half Cent, The Finest Known

An American Treasure

Welcome to our description of one of the very finest half cents ever to cross the auction block!

Close your eyes and think of rarities among half cents, and the two varieties of 1797 come to mind, the 1793 is of course a classic, and scattered others include 1831, 1836, the Proof-only issues of the 1840s and 1852. Unless you are a specialist or scholar, 1797 might not come to mind. This is because well-worn 1797 half cents are not rare.

The scene changes dramatically when a high-grade example on a flawless planchet is found. The D. Brent Pogue Collection 1797 C-2 in incredible MS-66 BN (PCGS) with a CAC cachet is beyond incredible. In this grade and quality it eclipses even the 1793 and 1796 rarities!

It is a condition rarity par excellence. We dare say that once sold, no amount of money could secure such a beautiful coin in the next several years, perhaps not for a decade or more, unless the fortunate buyer of this coin opts to part with it—highly unlikely, as nearly all buyers in our first two sales are holding on to their coins tightly!


Close-Up View

Cartwheel luster rolls from border to border within a thick frame of denticles, whose long stout bodies extend deep into the fields and nearly reach the tip of Liberty’s pole. The surfaces are extremely frosty, chocolate brown and steel, showing no apparent mint red except for the peek that extends from the highest wave of Liberty’s hair. Magnification and light find a lively crystalline surface, showing fascinating variations of tone, much of it barely mellowed from mint color and all of it beautiful to the connoisseur’s eye. The visual appeal, if possible, surpasses that of the assigned grade.

The ideal centering on this specimen showcases each of the uniquely long denticles to their fullest extent, but also allows the space beyond their outer extremities to be seen particularly well. The placement of the border, with a slight gap between each denticle and the die edge, gives the denticles on this obverse die the appearance of covering more surface area than any other obverse of the type. The visual impact is distinctive among the Liberty Cap half cent series, making a high grade 1797 Cohen-2 an especially impressive type coin.

The Cleneay-Mills-Bareford 1797 C-2 is unanimously accorded finest known honors by those who have endeavored to assemble a Condition Census of the early half cent varieties. Roger Cohen graded it MS-65 in his 1984 “Top Ten” column in Penny-Wise and ranked it as finest known ahead of the Garrett coin. The Breen/Hanson census likewise ranks this specimen first and the Garrett specimen second. The Chapman brothers, whose description in the 1890 Cleneay catalog is the earliest documented reference to the Pogue coin, called it a “superb, even impression of beautiful color, with traces of original red” and “the finest half cent we know of this year.” The only finer half cent of this year (but not this variety) seen by PCGS appears in the previous lot.

The buyer of this incredible coin will add his or her name to the following list, which includes many of the greatest names in numismatics:


Roster of Past Owners

Thomas Cleneay Collection, before 1887; Thomas Cleneay estate; S. Hudson and Henry Chapman’s sale of the Thomas Cleneay Collection, December 1890, lot 1944; John G. Mills Collection; S. Hudson and Henry Chapman’s sale of the John G. Mills Collection, April 1904, lot 1410; Joseph F. Negreen; B. Max Mehl’s sale of the George Chatillon Collection, November 1938, lot 1640; Samuel Rapoport Collection; Harold S. Bareford Collection, by sale, via B. Max Mehl, November 1950; Harold S. Bareford Estate to William J. Bareford, by descent, April 1978; Jules Reiver Collection; R. Tettenhorst Collection, by sale, June 1984; R. Tettenhorst to the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, by gift; Missouri Cabinet Collection; Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers’ sale of the Missouri Cabinet Collection of U.S. Half Cents, January 2014, lot 43, via Larry Hanks and Richard Burdick.

A Special Invitation

For more information on the Pogue Collection:

Limited-edition catalogs of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part III are in print and are available for purchase while supplies last. Limit: one per person. To order, call 800-458-4646.

Also available are two deluxe hardbound books about the Pogue Collection.


Treasures from the D. Brent Pogue Rare Coin Cabinet, 208 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. This tells the stories of 100 special coins from the collection. $39.95 plus shipping.


The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity, 128 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. $39.95 plus shipping.


For more information or to order visit


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