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Near-Gem No Drapery Half Dollar to be offered in our May 2016 Rarities Auction

Presented in lot 29 of our May 2016 Rarities Auction is a lovely 1839 No
Drapery half dollar showcasing a palette of soft iridescence on each side. The
obverse blooms with lavender and indigo tones that hint towards sky-blue at the
borders, paired with delicate amber at the center of the reverse. A silken
luster blankets the fields and subtly contrasts the boldly frosted devices,
imparting subtle prooflike contrast to the reverse. Though elements of the
central motifs display slight weakness, this is characteristic to the issue and
should not be mistaken for friction; as the surfaces are virtually pristine. This
delightful example is among the finest known survivors of this
transitional-year design type.


The 1839 No Drapery half dollar was short-lived. While the lower
denominations of the half dime, dime and quarter depicted this scantily-clad
effigy for several years, it is visible on only a portion of the 1839-dated
half dollars. The lower denominations had earlier abandoned the Capped Bust
design type, though it continued on the half dollar until the cusp of the
1840s. Conversely, when Christian Gobrecht’s motif was subtly massaged by
sculptor Robert Ball Hughes in 1840, the half dollar was the first denomination
to adopt the re-imagined design. He revised Liberty to appear more organic,
most notably adding drapery folds beneath her left elbow, creating the Drapery
design type that would be used until the conclusion of the series in 1891.

Though this alteration allows for a modest improvement to the overall
aesthetics, John Dannreuther suggests that this was likely an effort to enhance
striking. Much like the problems encountered with the inaugural issues of the
Peace dollar and the High Relief double eagles in the early 20th century,
proper striking of the No Drapery half dollar was tedious. Though uniform
definition was easy to maintain on the smaller planchets of lesser
denominations like the dime and half dime, the central elements of the No
Drapery half dollar were often weak, a condition that is evidenced by the
present specimen. Nonetheless, the significance of this piece is unaffected by
this fact, as it is overshadowed by stunning eye appeal and true desirability.


This gorgeous 1839 No Drapery
Liberty Seated half dollar will be presented as part of our May 2016 Rarities
Auction, held in conjunction with our offering of the D. Brent Pogue
Collection, Part IV. Both sales will be available for viewing and bidding
online at StacksBowers.com. Contact us at 1-800-458-4646 to secure your copy of
either catalog, or visit us at StacksBowers.com where both sales will be
available for your viewing and bidding!

 

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