In 1834, the U.S. Mint struck a handful of Proof Capped Bust half dollars using five different pairs of dies. Specialists are aware of only a single example of most of these die pairings, including for Overton-104. Stack’s Bowers Galleries has the distinction of presenting this coin as lot 3116 in our Rarities Night session of the Official Auction of the Whitman Spring Expo. It is a remarkable rarity befitting an advanced cabinet, and is offered for the first time since 1988.
Struck before the Mint began marketing Proof coins in the late 1850s, Proof Capped Bust half dollars are all significant rarities, with fewer than 20 coins being a typical mintage. A short page on the Newman Numismatic Portal sums up their appeal: “While all early proof coins are coveted by collectors, the proof Bust half dollars are aided in the marketplace by a broad and enthusiastic base of hobbyists who actively collect coins from this specific type family.” (https://nnp.wustl.edu/encyclopedia/seriesdetail/1504)
The coin featured in our upcoming auction is the Brand/Norweb coin, whose moniker reflects two of its notable previous owners. It was struck with the O-104 die pairing, described in the Overton reference Early Half Dollar Die Varieties, 1794-1836: OBV. … Stars are relatively flat. Date is 8 mm with an open 3 and extra tall tapered 1. Top of 1 is only ½ mm from drapery, the closest of any large date 1834.”
“REV. … 50C. Is 1 ¼ mm and high. A-A is 1 mm. I centered under left side of T. Lines 1 and 2 of stripe 4 extend far below border od shield. Die lump in filed under TE in UNITED on most specimens seen.”
O-104 is one of five attributions for the Large Date, Small Letters major variety and coins struck for circulation from the O-104 die pair are fairly common. The edition of the Overton reference consulted assigned the variety a Rarity-2 rating.
Our cataloger of this coin when it appeared in Part III of the Norweb Collection in November 1988 attested to the coin’s striking beauty: “A glittering gem specimen with full Proof surface on all areas, including within the shield stripes on the reverse. This piece is breathtakingly beautiful and is toned a delicate blend of muted rainbow colors, ranging from magenta at the center, to electric and gunmetal blue, to gold at the borders.”
Graded Proof-65 by NGC, this coin is by definition the finest known. The other die pairings used for 1834 Proof half dollars, O-101, O-103, O-106, and O-114, are also each known by a single Proof example.
The entire Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Spring Expo is available for viewing and bidding at StacksBowers.com. For more information or to consign to an upcoming auction call 800-458-4646 or email Info@StacksBowers.com.