1817/4 50C Overton 102a AU53

CERTIFICATION#: 25359636
PCGS#: 39514

Owner's Comments

O.102a R7. Finest Known of this legendary rarity by 18 grading points above the PCGS VF35 Meyer O.102. Coin has great eye appeal with a halo of rainbow color. Large concentric die crack across obverse denotes the late die state that is present on most 1817/4 halves. This large crack spanning the entire obverse most likely doomed the die to failure and accounts for the rarity of this early overdate. Shares the reverse die with the more common O.103 easily spotted by the three reverse I's appearing like J's because of the missing lower right serif on the I punch. One of the 100 most important U.S. Coins. Likely the Wallis and discovery coin published in 1930 and offered in a Fixed Price List by Wallis in 1934 for $2,500. Said by Wallis to have been held in a family collection since 1846. Sold into the Pratt Collection at some point. "Rediscovered" in the Pratt Collection purchased by Al Overton in 1951. Privately sold by Al C. Overton, the author of UNITED STATES EARLY HALF DOLLAR DIE VARITIES, in 1953 for $1,500 to Louis Eliasberg. Sold at Louis E. Eliasberg Collection (Bowers and Merena/Stack's, April 1997, lot 1735) Auction and purchased by Donald Kagin and Andrew Lustig for $209,000. Sold circa June 1997 by Donald Kagin and Andrew Lustig to Dr. Juan XII Suros for a reported $250,000+.  Sold in Juan XII Suros Collection (Superior, February 1999, lot 180) to Jay Parrino & Don Kagin for approximately $184,000. Listed, but did not sell, in the 2003 ANA Sale (Bowers and Merena, July 2003, lot 14430). Sold in the Richmond II Collection (David Lawrence Rare Coins, November 2004, lot 1388) to George "Buddy" Byers for $333,500. Sold in Stack's "George "Buddy" Byers" Auction on 10/17/2006, lot 1031, for $310,500 to John Gerversoni. Sold in Stacks "Treasure of New York" Auction on 7/30/2009, lot 542, to Dr. Charles Link for $356,500. Upgraded by PCGS to AU53 on 10/17/2013 and designated O.102a in a Secure holder.

Expert Comments

Ron Guth: Thanks to Bust Half Dollar expert Sheridan Downey for the following information:

In January 1816, John Reich was in his ninth year of service as Assistant Engraver for the United States Mint.  Reich, from the time of his employment in September 1807, was regarded as one of the most skilled engravers in the country, having learned his trade in Germany before immigrating to the United States (as an indentured servant) in 1800.  His talent certainly exceeded that of the Chief Engraver, Robert Scot.  (Scot designed the earlier Flowing Hair and Draped Bust half-dollars.)  Reich's first task, in 1807, was to redesign and prepare master dies and hubs for gold and silver coinage.  The now familiar Capped Bust design is his enduring contribution to American numismatics.  On the 10th of January 1816 the Mint delivered a token mintage of 47,150 half dollars for the year 1815.  The entire mintage was coined from a single set of dies; the obverse die was prepared and date-punched in 1812, but had gone unused.  In 1815 it was recovered, reworked and a '5' was punched over the partially effaced '2.'  The overdating of unused dies was a common occurrence in the early years of the mint.  In seven of the eleven years preceding 1816 the mint produced 'overdated' half-dollars.  Hours after the delivery of the 1815/2 half dollars a fire in the Mint ruined its rolling mills.  The rolling mills, of course, were needed to convert gold and silver bullion into strips from which planchets were prepared.  Without planchets, no gold or silver coins could be struck in 1816.

One might suppose that Reich had plenty of time in 1816 to prepare working dies for 1817.  Apparently not.  The first two obverse dies used in 1817 were overdates.  The 1817/3 came first, then the 1817/4.  The two 1817 overdates share a common edge with the earlier 1814 O.103 and O.106, the 1815/2 and with the later struck 1817 O.110.  (Remember, Overton's attribution numbers do not correspond with emission order.)  Reich resigned in March 1817.  His eyesight was failing and he was unhappy with the absence of a single pay raise during his 10-year employment.  Scot immediately set to work 'fine tuning' the hub from which working dies were prepared.  We readily notice his addition of curls to Liberty's coif, yielding a more elaborate and delicate hairstyle.  Reich, we now know, prepared only one obverse die in 1817 - and it was not used until 1818.  From the advent of the Capped Bust design in 1807 until he left the Mint in early 1817 Reich placed a covert 'signature' on the obverse dies prepared during his tenure: a small notch on the outside point of star 13.  Of the 10 obverse dies used in 1817 only the 1817/3 and 1817/4 have this notch.  (These dies, of course, had been prepared in 1813 and 1814.)  The single obverse die used to coin the 1818/7 O.101 and O.103 also has the notch, along with large 8's and the early style hair curls."

Diameter: 32.50 millimeters Designer: John Reich Edge: Lettered: FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR
Mintage: 1,215,567 Weight: 13.50 grams Metal Content: 89.2% Silver, 10.8% Copper
20
190,000
25
200,000
40
265,000
45
285,000
50
355,000
53
400,000
1

Condition Census

Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 AU53 PCGS grade

First described by E.T. Wallis (California Stamp Company of Los Angeles), in the 10/1930 edition of The Numismatist and on the back cover of his second auction catalog (2/14/1930) - Pratt Collection - “rediscovered” by Al Overton in 1951 - Overton 1/1953:200, unsold, then sold privately later in the year for $1,500 - Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection - Bowers & Merena 4/1997:1735, $209,000 - Donald Kagin & Andrew Lustig, sold privately in 6/1997 for a reported $250,000+ - Dr. Juan XII Suros - Superior Galleries 2/1999:180, $184,000 - Jay Parrino & Don Kagin - Bowers & Merena 7/2003:1443, unsold - Richmond Collection - David Lawrence 11/2004:1388, $333,500 - Stack’s 10/2006:1031, $310,500 - Stack’s 7/2009:542, $356,500 - Charles Link Complete Variety Set (PCGS Set Registry)

2 XF details, corroded  

Discovered in 2005 by contractor George Williams in a pile of fill dirt - Heritage 1/2006:3184, $253,000 - Joseph C. Thomas Collection - Heritage 4/2009:2418, $109,250

3 VF20 PCGS grade

Discovered in the 1940s by Ed Johnson (Ohio coin dealer), sold privately in 1966 - Stewart P. Witham Collection - offered privately in 1983 - Heritage 8/2010:3147, $184,000

4 VG8 PCGS grade

The discovery of this example was reported in the 7/9/2012 issue of Coin World.

Discovered circa early 2012 by a Louisiana dealer in an old-time collection, who eventually sold the coin “for an undisclosed six-figure price” - anonymous Louisiana collector

5 G6 PCGS grade

Heritage 7/2008:1680 (as ICG VG8, obverse scratch), $87,499.99