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Amazing Proof 1922 Grant With Star Half Dollar

By Frank Van Valen, Numismatist and Cataloger, U.S. Coins

Author: Frank Van Valen / Thursday, April 19, 2012 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week
Amazing Proof 1922 Grant With Star Half Dollar Takes Baltimore by Storm Realizes $184,000 after Furious Bidding

If you’ve studied your Civil War history then you know that Grant took Richmond in April 1865, but did you know he also took Baltimore in March 2012?

Born Hiram Ulysses Grant in April 1822, his name was botched at West Point and he became Ulysses Simpson Grant; Simpson was his mother’s maiden name. He rose to fame in the Civil War, eventually becoming commander-in-chief of the Union Army after several successful campaigns against the Confederates including Shiloh, where he earned the attention of President Lincoln as an aggressive commander, and at the siege of Vicksburg. He was the general who accepted Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865, where he earned the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. He went on to become our 18th president, taking the oath of office on March 4, 1869 and remaining in office until March 4, 1877, serving two terms. Unfortunately those two terms were racked with scandal, and though he was a staunch advocate of the rights of black Americans – the first black congressman was elected under his watch in 1870 – he is best remembered for the ill-doings of his cabinet.

Meanwhile, back in Baltimore. As the official auctioneers of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Baltimore Expo, Stack’s Bowers has sold innumerable rarities over the years at that venue. On March 22 of this year, however, a 1922 Grant With Star half dollar stole the spotlight among commemorative coins in our Rarities Night session. Lot 4170, a Sandblast Proof example of the issue, is one of perhaps just five or so known according to the cataloger. The known pieces include a specimen from the J. R. Sinnock estate, another in the S.E. Green Collection, and another offered by us (Stack’s) in the S.A. Tanenbaum Collection in January 1958. As noted by the cataloger, “a few others are rumored.”

This particular Proof Grant half dollar, aptly toned in deep blue and gray patina and the finest certified by PCGS, opened at a reasonable figure and then quickly rocketed nearly to the stratosphere, with the final tally after furious bidding totaling $184,000, a more than respectable figure for any U.S commemorative half dollar! We’re certain it’s a record for the type, hands down, and certainly among the highest prices realized for any commemorative half dollar of any type or date. It just goes to show that, given the proper venue and proper publicity, anything can happen in one of Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ sales.