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Well Pedigreed, Extremely Rare, Gem Quality 1839-O Proof Half Dollar

One of the rarest coins in the Capped Bust half dollar series, the Proof 1839-O half dollar, will provide an important bidding opportunity for specialists in our official auction for the American Numismatic Association’s National Money Show in Portland. For many years, the fame of the 1838-O half dollar (with a mintage of 20 pieces) overshadowed its rarer sibling, the 1839-O Proof (with an estimated five coins struck in Proof). The Gem example we will offer in Portland is graded Proof-65 by NGC and is the finest of the four known survivors. It has been offered twice by us (Stack’s) over the years, the first time in our February 1982 sale of the Ellis Robison Collection. From there, it was placed into the Queller Family Collection of Half Dollars, sold in October 2002. Since 2002, the coin has appeared a few more times at auction, before finding its way “back home,” to Stack’s Bowers Galleries to be offered in our National Money Show sale this March.

The coin is richly toned; as described in our Queller Collection Sale, the obverse is “spectacularly toned in a combination of deep gray, rose, iridescent blue and pale green. The reverse is a similar, variegated combination of dark and lighter gray with areas of pale rose.”

The 1839-O Proof half dollars are thought to have been struck during late March or June 1839. The obverse die was freshly produced in Philadelphia and shipped to the New Orleans Mint; the reverse die was left over from 1838. One theory is that the 1839-O Proof half dollars were struck at the same time as their more famous 1838-O cousins, and before the circulation strike examples were produced.

This exceptionally American rarity has recently come out of the shadow of the more famous 1838-O half dollar, although the latter generally is worth substantially more. This truly rare and exceptionally high quality coin will be the centerpiece of any advanced Bust half dollar set or cabinet of rarities. If this coin fits into your collection, plan to view it and bid when it crosses the block at the official auction for the Portland ANA Convention this March.

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