|1854 50C PR66 NGC. CAC. WB-101. Ex: "Col." E.H.R. Green. The 1854 proof Seated Liberty half dollar is one of the classic rarities of the 19th century. As late as 1977 Walter Breen could trace only three examples of the 1854 in proof, with a few earlier citations that might or might not represent the same coins. In 1993, Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert estimated the surviving population as "less than 6 known" in their authoritative series reference. Continuing the trend, David Akers postulated a larger number of 10-12 specimens extant in the Pittman catalog in 1998. Current population data reveals NGC and PCGS have combined to certify 26 coins in all grades, with an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (9/13). Given this new information, it seems reasonable to put the surviving population at approximately 20 pieces. Remarkably, Eric P. Newman managed to acquire two of the finest known specimens of this rare issue, this piece from "Colonel" E.H.R. Green's estate and a PR67 NGC example from another source. This might be the first opportunity numismatists have had to study two examples of this elusive date at the same time. Both coins show the usual diagnostics for proofs: the date is slightly high, the shield point is over the outer left curve of the 8, the numerals 5 and 4 in the date are extremely close, but do not touch, and Liberty's foot is supported, but the toe is not enclosed. On the reverse we notice a feature that has not been reported before. Both coins show a small curving lintmark in the field, above the right upright of the H in HALF. This mark also shows on the Eliasberg/Kaufman coin, which we have handled on several occasions, and on the plate of the Pittman coin. It is visible on plates of many coins that have appeared in auction catalogs over the years, including the earliest plated appearance we can locate, in lot 390 of the James B. Wilson Collection (Thomas Elder, 10/1908). It seems safe to say that the lintmark is present on most, if not all, examples of the 1854 proof half dollar. This indicates that the coins were all struck at the same time, because the piece of foreign matter that caused the mark would not have remained on the die for any length of time. In earlier years, proof coins were struck to order, at different times during the year, whenever a government official or influential collector ordered them. Many researchers believe the Mint began striking a supply of proof coins early in the year, to have a quantity on hand to satisfy collector demand, years before the official commercial proof set offerings began in 1858. Although there may be other explanations for striking the 1854 proof half dollars all at the same time, this would certainly be consistent with that theory. The present coin is a delightful Premium Gem, with well-preserved reflective surfaces that show no mentionable flaws, even on close inspection with a loupe. Like all examples of this issue, the design elements show just a touch of softness on Liberty's hair, the upper stars, and the eagle's claw. Other devices and the dentils are sharply rendered, with the squared off edges expected of a high-quality proof. The surfaces are enhanced by attractive shades of cerulean-blue, champagne-gold, and lavender-gray toning, with incredible eye appeal. We expect intense competition from series specialists and type collectors when this lot is called. Census: 3 in 66, 1 finer (10/13). 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; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.
Realized $49,937.50 . Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions, ha.com.