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Choice 1792 Half Disme MS-64 (PCGS)

Article by Greg Cohen, Professional Numismatist and Consignment Director, U.S. and World Coins. Based on the lot description by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus and James Matthews, Senior Numismatist and Consignment Director, U.S. Coins

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Tuesday, February 26, 2013 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week
On the evening of January 24, we sold a superbly beautiful and exceptionally important 1792 half disme, gradedMS-68 by NGC for $1,145,625, which was a highlight of the Cardinal Collection. On the strength of that piece, we were consigned this lovely MS-64 (PCGS)example for our March Baltimore auction.

Among the most historically important issues in the field of United States numismatics, the 1792 half disme was the first federal coin issued after the passage of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, and was struck prior to the completion of the US Mint in Philadelphia, in the cellar of John Harper’s workshop in Philadelphia; the issue was even mentioned by George Washington in his address to Congress, where he declared in part: “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." The entire issue, approximately 1,500 pieces, was struck on a single day, on silver that President Washington provided (the oft told legend is that one of Martha Washington’s tea services was melted to provide the bullion). Mint Director David Rittenhouse retained four specimens for himself, and the majority of the remaining pieces were placed into circulation.

There are several hundred examples thought to survive and most of these show evidence of circulation. There are also many coins that have been holed/plugged, scratched, cleaned, or damaged in some other manner over the years; high grade survivors are indeed a very rare numismatic treasure. In Mint State grades, the number of known examples drops significantly. The presently offered piece shows strong definition in Liberty’s hair tresses as well as the eagle’s feathers. The surfaces are evenly toned in shades of battleship and gunmetal.

We have had the privilege of offering at auction some of the finest known examples, and this piece will be among those when it crosses the block in our March Baltimore auction. We are very excited to be able to offer this near-gem half disme. Be prepared to bid liberally when its lot number is called at the podium. If you are not currently on our mailing list and would like to receive a copy of the catalog, please contact one of our auction services representatives. If you are interested in consigning to one of our upcoming auction sales, whether a large collection or single rarity such as this 1792 half disme, contact one of our consignment directors for more information regarding your holdings.