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Lot 33461

Image Information

Type Coin
Title Lot 33461
Date 1836
Country U.S.
Service Catalog # 6221
Denomination 50C
Description 1836 50C Lettered Edge, 50 over 00 PR66 NGC. O-116, R.7 as proof. Ex: "Col." E.H.R. Green. Here is a curious and absolutely wonderful coin. Let us first dispose of any skeptic's protestation of proof status. This is a no-brainer. The look, surfaces, mirrored fields and strike are thoroughly consistent with a carefully made proof. Moreover this die pair is long known to have produced unquestioned proofs. Stephen Herrman's most recent compilation identifies 15 occurrences at auction over the past 30 years, representing at least six, perhaps seven different specimens from notable collections that include R.J. Lathrop, Louis Eliasberg, Reed Hawn, Elliot Landau, R.C. Davis, J.W. Haseltine, Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb, and Buddy Byers. NGC correctly views the Newman coin as a Premium Gem. The surfaces and regal antique toning are illustrative of a coin that was meticulously struck and fastidiously handled, stored, and cared for from the moment it left the screw press. Everything about the coin smacks of originality. The toning is unlike any other bust half dollar in the Newman collection. We are tempted to drift into hyperbole in an effort to paint a true picture of the coin. Suffice it to say that rich yet restrained shades of blue, gray, green, and gold are intertwined. This gossamer blanket of toning only enhances the fully mirrored surfaces. So what makes this coin "curious?" Turn your attention to distinct areas of flatness in the dentils above Liberty's cap and, on the reverse, under the 5 of the denomination. Slight striking weakness adjoins these areas. We also see fine lines originating in the flattened obverse dentils, running to and through the top of Liberty's cap. They are not adjustment marks. They are, instead, indicia of a freshly polished planchet, yet another indicator of the proof striking. Patches of flattened dentils are familiar to collectors of bust half dollars. They occur when edge lettering is applied to a blank planchet. The edge lettering device, known as a Castaing machine, consists of parallel bars through which the planchet is rolled. Each bar is engraved with half of the edge letters. When the planchet completes a 180� rotation between the bars those letters are inscribed on the edge of the planchet. The Castaing machine performed another important task: it raised a rim on the planchet as it passed between the bars under great pressure. Planchets did not always complete their journey through the Castaing machine. In such instances, a portion of the edge lettering may be lost and, more importantly, the entire rim would not be raised. In the coining chamber the flattened portion of the rim received less pressure when the screw press was thrown and, of course, dentils and local devices would be blurred. Planchet irregularities, including polish lines, might not be obliterated without sufficient pressure from the dies. We think that is what happened when this coin was struck. It was careless of the mint workers to have allowed an even mildly defective planchet to be used for a coin that was likely destined for presentation or for a special occasion. Was it also careless of the workers to have selected a reverse die for proof coinage that already displayed a bit of carelessness? We suspect the answer is "no," at least by standards of care then in place. We refer, of course, to the engraver's initial placement of a zero in the denomination where a 5 belonged. J.W. Haseltine in 1881 and M.L. Beistle in 1929 each identified this reasonably common die pairing of 1836. For Haseltine the die pair was his "No. 1;" for Beistle it was variety "14-T" of 1836. Neither paid attention to or described the now famous engraver's error. It was not until 1951 that Walter Breen announced that the "defect" around the 5 was in fact an underlying 0. This is a fabulous coin with which to close our offering of Newman's Lettered Edge Bust half dollars. It offers a generous helping of aspects of the series that entice collectors, both today and in generations past. Ex: "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $40.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Realized $96,937.50 . Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

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