DESCRIPTION Exquisite Specimen 1794 Half DimeSpecially Struck and Exquisitely Preserved1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime. Logan McCloskey-3. Rarity-8 as a Specimen. Specimen-67 (PCGS).
While the definition of what constitutes a Specimen has changed over time, the fact remains that a handful of special coins exists among coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint in the 18th century. They are distinctive not just for their grade, or their eye appeal, but for their method of manufacture and the care with which they were struck. Many, though not all, of these special coins happen to be from the first years of their design type. The reason they were produced was never recorded, and they rarely meet the modern definitions of what a "Proof coin" should be. However, experienced numismatists have long focused on these coins and elevated them, knowing that a scant few are just so clearly different from their ilk that particular forethought must have been involved in their creation.
This is one such coin, a first-year half dime of the Flowing Hair type that represents the birth of the denomination and the design type as coined within the Philadelphia Mint. Enough high grade 1794 half dimes have survived to identify this specimen as unlike the others. Rather than the cool, rolling, frosty luster of a typical Mint State 1794 half dime (prize coins in their own right), this example is boldly and undeniably prooflike. While many early strikes show some level of reflectivity, this coin displays purposeful polishing of the planchet that reflects both planning and a high level of interest of this particular specimen's aesthetics from before the die faces met its surfaces. Further, the strike is far in excess of what even a boldly struck Mint State coin exhibits, with full details in all feathers, every star center, every denticle, and every strand of hair. A lint mark is noted over the left wreath end, near U of UNITED. The die state is exceptionally early, as evidenced by the lack of the thin die crack that runs between stars 5 and 6 to the back of Liberty's head on a diagonal through E of LIBERTY on the vast majority of coins. That characteristic is not present here in any form.
This is the sole example to have been recognized as a Specimen by PCGS, though another 1794 half dime has been certified as a Specimen (SP-64) by NGC.
Beyond its exacting production, the present coin has been carefully handled since the moment it was minted. An interesting aspect is that while dies for 1794 half dimes were prepared in that calendar year, coins from these dies were not struck until early 1795. The toning is beautiful and consistent, mostly golden with a blend of blue on the obverse and notes of blue, rose, and green on the reverse. Two very thin hairline scratches are nearly invisible, hidden in the hair and just below star 8. The fields are free of hairlines or any contact points whatsoever. This extraordinary coin reminds us of the Amon Carter, Jr. 1794 dollar on a diminutive scale.
Interestingly, a pattern struck on a copper planchet is also known from these dies, indicating that the Philadelphia Mint was still experimenting, trying new processes, and creating distinctive individual strikings that require study even today. Very few of these coins (sometimes termed "master coins" by the coiners who struck them before the modern concept of "Proof" evolved in the mid-19th century) have been recognized by PCGS in the modern era. From the days when any high grade coin was called "Proof," through the 20th century concept that any coin from polished dies was a Proof or specimen striking, to the very strict definitions used today, the parameters of Specimens or "special strikings" have become highly refined and incredibly particular. This is by far the superior example of the two recognized by PCGS and NGC, making it one of the most significant 1794 half dimes extant.PCGS# 84250
.NGC ID: 22ZU
PCGS Population: 1, none finer. This is the only example of the type certified as a Specimen by PCGS.Ex Greensboro Collection; Heritage's sale of October 2012, lot 3822, via Larry Hanks; our (Stack's Bowers Galleries)/Sotheby's sale of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part I, May 2015, lot 1002.