Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 60

Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction

1792 Proposed Coinage
Lot Photo Description Realized
Lot 1291
1792 Half Disme. NGC graded AU-58. Nice original toning on both sides. While Judd and others considered the 1792 Half Disme to be a pattern, there are those who cite President Washington's famous letter of 1792 assigning it official status as a circulating coin: "There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dismes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them." Whichever camp you are in, numismatic purists have yearned to one of these delightful ties to our fledgling nationhood for over 150 years. This famous coin was struck in the cellar "mint" of John Harper at Sixth and Cherry Streets or at another facility in a coach house at Sixth Street above Chestnut, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Why not strike the coin at the government mint? Because (1) the mint was not then in operation, and (2) neither the chief coiner nor the assayer of the mint had yet posted bonds which would have allowed them to begin coinage of silver and gold.

The obverse features a wind-blown Flowing Hair portrait of Liberty, with the peripheral legend LIB. PAR. Of SCIENCE & INDUSTRY, 1792 below portrait. The reverse depicts an eagle in flight with UNI. STATES OF AMERICA around, HALF DISME below. The coins share distinct similarities with the so-called Birch pattern cents, made by a Bob Birch whose identity remained unconfirmed until recent archival research was done. The average grade of 1792 half dismes certified at NGC and PCGS (the upper stratum of surviving specimens) is in the EF range, indicating limited circulation before being taken up by collectors as souvenirs.

The present specimen has a trace of light wear on the upper points of the design, placing it close to the Mint State grade. Minor weakness in the strike is visible on the high points of Liberty's hair curls around the ear. The strike is exceptionally bold elsewhere and nicely centered (a few of these come off-center and aren't as attractive looking). Most of the denticles on the obverse are plainly visible. Both sides show a layer of natural antique silver patina, the traditional look of old-silver when a coin hasn't been touched by the cleaning habit; with underlying smoothness and injury-free surface on both sides. This is a coin for which some collector must "step up to the plate," as opportunities for its acquiring such a handsome coin are rare. Pop 6; 19 finer.

According to researcher Karl Moulton (among others), the coins were struck in mid-July 1792, from dies prepared by Jacob Perkins, copied in part from the other 1792 dies by Bob Birch and Joseph Wright. The die sinker was John Harper, and the planchet adjuster and coiner was Henry Voigt.
Estimated Value $100,000 - 115,000.
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