By James Matthews, Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director, U.S. Coins
The first 1802 half dime to sell at public auction is believed to be the William A. Lilliendahl Collection specimen sold in December 1863. At that time the piece was described as the finest of the three known specimens, although Harold P. Newlin noted the coin was in only "Very Good condition". It sold for $340, a record price that stood for a generation until Newlin's own finer specimen of this rarity was sold at auction. In comparison, one of the finest known 1794 silver dollars brought a comparable $285 in another 1863 auction, confirming the nascent American numismatists already had a firm grasp on the true rarity of the 1802 half dime. The original mintage is believed to be only 3,060 pieces, and these small silver coins suffered more than the usual indignities of circulation; they simply did not survive intact.