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Welcome to The E. Horatio Morgan Collection of Half Dollars

By Stack's Bowers Galleries

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Wednesday, October 23, 2019 / Categories: Events

Welcome to The E. Horatio Morgan Collection of Half Dollars

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Complete by Date and Mint

1794-1891

Nearly Complete by Die Marriage

1794-1836

 

As collectors, we all have times in our lives when we push the hardest to build up our collections. For E. Horatio Morgan, that time was the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the market was abuzz. Major collections were coming to auction at a breakneck pace, coin shows were packed with collectors and dealers, memberships in specialty organizations were de rigueur among dedicated collectors, and PCGS and NGC were first born. The last development helped drive the coin market to new, short-lived highs for common, high grade coins, while amazing rarities like 1894-S dimes and 1876-CC twenty cent pieces could be had for well under $100,000.

E. Horatio Morgan (a pseudonym used to provide privacy to the surviving family of this now deceased collector) ignored all the buzz and hype, instead focusing on select type coins, major rarities, silver dollars and half dollars and dimes from the 1790s to the 1890s. He pursued the dimes and especially the half dollars with singular zeal, building a set of the latter that was nearly complete, not only by date but also by die marriage. In the 1794 to 1836 period, the half dollar collection is missing just a dozen Overton varieties (chiefly Rarity-7 and Rarity-8 varieties and not including the unseen 1795 O-118 and the experimental Crushed Lettered Edge Proofs).

In fact, the extensive and very popular Capped Bust half dollar series is missing just four stoppers: the 1817/4 O-102 (R-7-), 1825 O-118 (R-7+), 1827 O-149 (R-7+) and the Proof-only 1832 O-123 (R-7+). They are not missing for want of trying, and he in fact owned an 1817/4 for a short time, but more on that below…

The statistics of the E. Horatio Morgan Collection are stunning. He loved all early half dollars, and collected them ecumenically, while most collectors settle into the Capped Bust series. While the Capped Bust half dollars are more numerous, they do not have die marriages known by a unique example, unlike the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust, which include die marriages that are unique. Of 558 known die marriages for all early half dollars from 1794 through the lettered edge issues of 1836, the Morgan Collection includes 546 of them: 38 of the 42 Flowing Hairs, all four of the Draped Bust, Small Eagles, 58 of the 62 Draped Bust, Large Eagles, and 446 of the 550 Capped Bust, Lettered Edges. We are not aware of any other similar collection sold at public auction that is so complete by die marriage. Jules Reiver, the consummate collector of all early American coinages, also collected 1794 to 1836 halves by die marriage, and his collection, sold in 2006, included 539 of the 558 possible die pairings, including 442 of 450 of the Capped Bust, Lettered Edge pieces.

We consulted with Sheridan Downey, who has helped build and disperse more die variety collections of early half dollars than just about anybody. He too could not recall any more complete collections of early half dollars sold entirely at public auction than that of E. Horatio Morgan. Sheridan cited handling many collections like those of Al Overton, Dr. Gerald Schertz, Jeff Oertel, John Crowley, Robinson S. Brown, John Tidwell, Elton Dosier, Gehring Prouty, and Charlton Meyer, Jr., all of which had between 442 and 450 die marriages in the Capped Bust series. Some of these collectors' coins are now in the Morgan Collection. Only Schertz, Brown, Prouty and Meyer also had significant collections of Flowing Hair and Draped Bust issues. Meyer's total variety count was 548, being complete in the Capped Busts and very advanced in the earlier series. Schertz was nearly complete in all series, and had the overall highest die marriage count of the collections surveyed. These collections were dispersed by a combination of private and auction sales by Sheridan, so there is no complete public auction record of any of the collections; we thank Sheridan for sharing many of the above statistics with us. Richard Pugh's collection, sold by Superior in May 1992, was inclusive of all types, but was fairly complete only in the Capped Bust issues, of which he had 444; Morgan got his 1805 O-114 from the Pugh Collection, and it is offered here. The Don Frederick Collection, sold by Heritage in April 2010, included 443 die marriages. Other significant offerings of early half dollar die marriages have seen the auctioneer's hammer, such the Paul Munson Collection of Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle die marriages, which when sold in 1989 was complete, save for the then relatively recently discovered 1805 O-114.

Type​Total Possible Die MarriagesDr. Gerald SchertzCharlton Meyer, Jr.E. Horatio MorganJules Reiver
Flowing Hair, 1794-9542*40373836
Draped Bust, Small Eagle, 1796-9744244
Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle, 1801-076258595857
Capped Bust, Lettered Edge, 1807-36450**447450446442
Totals558549548546539
*Total possible count does not include the never seen 1795 O-118.
**Total possible count does not include the 3 Crushed Letter Edge varieties.

 
The 546 die marriage count is all the more impressive when considering a couple other factors. First off, E. Horatio Morgan owned an 1817/4—the Al Overton specimen—for a fleeting moment. Sheridan had sold it to him in advance of taking the entire Overton Collection to the 1993 ANA Convention in Baltimore for display and sale, but Morgan left it with Sheridan to display as part of the complete Overton Collection. Morgan ended up selling the coin through Sheridan at a significant profit without ever taking possession of the coin! In addition, the most recently discovered die pairings, namely 1794 O-111, 1806 O-128, O-129, O-130 and 1807 O-115, were all added to the corpus of Bust half dollar die marriages between March 1993 and January 2007, a period of time during which E. Horatio Morgan's acquisitions were slowing to a crawl or had stopped entirely. So between the 1817/4, and the five more recent discoveries, his collection would have been considered six coins closer to "complete" in his most active collecting period! In a nutshell, the E. Horatio Morgan Bust Half Dollar Collection is world class in its completeness, including, or having included, 547 of the 553 die marriages that would have been known to the collector.

The E. Horatio Morgan Collection of Half Dollars opens strong with significant rarities in the brief and challenging Flowing Hair series of 1794 to 1795:

-1794 O-110 AU-53 (PCGS). A newcomer to the census, this coin is the finest of just 12 specimens known for this highly elusive variety.
-1795 O-112 AU-55 (PCGS). Condition Census standing for this popular Recut Date, Two Leaves variety.
-1795 O-119 MS-64 (PCGS). Although this Rarity-4 variety is not all that difficult to locate by Flowing Hair half dollar standards, in PCGS MS-64 the E. Horatio Morgan specimen is tied for CC#1. This phenomenal coin is returning to the open market for the first time since appearing in our (Stack's) June 1987 sale of the Estate of Corrado Romano, lot 571.

One of the rarest and most eagerly sought design types in all of U.S. numismatics follows next: the Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar of 1796 to 1797. The total mintage for this type is a mere 3,918 coins, and survivors are so rare (and costly) that most advanced collectors are content to acquire just a single example to represent this type -- often a crowning achievement in one's numismatic pursuits. E. Horatio Morgan, however, went even further and completed a set of all four die varieties of this legendary design type:

-1796 O-101, 15 Stars, AU-58+ (PCGS). Ex James Kelly's Numismatic Association of Southern California Convention Auction Sale of February 1964, lot 241; Superior's Moreira Collection Sale, Part III, January 1989, lot 4417.
-1796 O-102, 16 Stars, VF-25 (PCGS). From Superior's Buddy Ebsen Collection sale, May-June 1987, lot 1322.
-1797 O-101, 15 Stars, Fine-12 (PCGS). OGH.
-1797 O-102, 15 Stars, VF Details (PCGS).

Moving into the Heraldic Eagle portion of the Draped Bust half dollar series, the bidder will find several rare and famous die varieties in the E. Horatio Morgan Collection, including:

-1805 O-114 VG-8 (PCGS), CAC. A legendary Rarity-8 variety with just two examples known, this is the Richard Pugh-Robinson S. Brown specimen, and also the plate coin in the third, fourth and fifth editions of the Overton reference on early half dollars.
-1806 O-108, Knobbed 6, Stem Not Through Claw, VF-35 (PCGS). OGH. CC#2 for this famous rarity and Red Book type, this coin includes Brian Greer and Sheridan Downey in its provenance.

The Capped Bust half dollars in the E. Horatio Morgan Collection are equally extensive and impressive, featuring several noteworthy rarities among both Lettered Edge and Reeded Edge issues:

-1826 O-102 Proof-64 (PCGS). A Rarity-8 variety in this format, there are only three confirmed Proof strikings from these dies, and this is the finest. It is also the first specimen to appear at auction during the 21st century, highlighting the significance of this offering.
-1829 O-120 VG-10 (PCGS). Just "3 Known," per Stephen J. Herrman, a legendary die marriage in the Capped Bust series. It was in fact the acquisition of an O-120 that pushed Chuck Link's Capped Bust die variety set to completion.
-1838-O Specimen-63 (PCGS). CAC. A historically significant issue, the 1838-O is the first mintmarked half dollar in U.S. coinage history. It is also a legendary rarity with only nine examples believed extant. Ex Cox-Robison.
-1839 GR-1, Small Letters, EF-40 (PCGS). CAC. A newcomer to the census for this fabled rarity, which now includes only 12 specimens, this coin has been off the market since 1988. It is the only example of the variety approved by CAC and ranks as CC#3, though it is arguably the finest known, as it more fully struck than the EF-45+ Pogue coin and the existence of the PCGS MS-63 coin has not been independently verified.

Throughout the Flowing Hair, Draped Bust and Capped Bust offerings in this collection the bidder will find many examples with Blundered Edge Lettering. This is an underappreciated error in today's market due to the edge of many coins being obscured by the PCGS or NGC holder in which they are encapsulated. Fortunately, Stack's Bowers Galleries was able to identify these errors in the E. Horatio Morgan Collection before the coins were submitted for third party certification. Most of these Blundered Edge Lettering errors involve missing and/or overlapping edge devices caused by the failure of the Castaing machine's operator to properly reset the machine to its starting position. Even more significant is the 1831 O-118 in the E. Horatio Morgan Collection which is missing the edge lettering entirely, the planchet obviously failing to be run through the Castaing machine prior to striking.

E. Horatio Morgan brought the same focus and depth of collecting to the Liberty Seated series that marked his pursuit of the earlier half dollar types. The set is complete by date and mintmark, and includes all major types save for the 1853-O No Arrows (which he owned and sold in the early 1980s) and the 1842 Small Letters, which was not known during his active collecting period. In addition to acquiring many famous rarities and high quality type coins, he also delved deep into this series by representing the different reverse hubs of 1859 to 1860 and 1876 to 1881, and collected many die varieties, a handful of which are offered in this sale. Some of his more notable Liberty Seated half dollars are:

-1839 No Drapery, MS-64 (NGC). CAC. OH. Exceptional quality and eye appeal for this significant one-year design type.
- 1861-O Liberty Seated Half Dollar. State of Louisiana Issue. W-04. Rarity-7+ as a Proof. Specimen-62 (NGC). One of only a handful of special strikings known of this pivotal southern issue, and one of only two known of this die pairing struck under the authority of the State of Louisiana.
-1877/6 FS-301 MS-64 (PCGS). CAC. Among the finest known for this intriguing variety.
-1878-S AU-53 (PCGS). The Norweb specimen of this fabled rarity with just 12,000 coins struck, most of which were consumed by commercial use during an era when there was strong demand for silver coinage in the economy of the American West.

Additional half dollar types are also included in our current offering of the E. Horatio Morgan Collection. Among other desirable coins, bidders will find a Mint State 1892-O Micro O Barber half dollar and a Scott Restrike of the famous and exceedingly rare Confederate States of America half dollar.

E. Horatio Morgan, despite the rarities gathered here, remained a very low key collector, enjoying his collection at home, while building it via mail order purchases and bidding through agents at auction. He relished every coin, whether a well-worn common variety Draped Bust half dollar or one of his pride and joys, the 1838-O. Though by his own design, his collecting activities went mostly unnoticed, his efforts will be memorialized in a series of auctions that began with our August 2018 ANA Auction and continue here and in future auctions.