1838-O 50C, BM PR (PCGS# 6226)

2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando #1201

  • Auctioneer:
    Heritage Auctions
  • Lot Number:
    5249
  • Grade:
    SP64
  • Price:
    $763,750.00
Lot Description
1838-O 50C PR64 NGC. CAC. GR-1, R.7. The 1838-O Reeded Edge half dollar is one of the most mysterious and valuable coins in American numismatics. The 1838-O is believed to be the earliest branch mint proof coin of any denomination and no official record of its mintage exists. Researchers have traced only nine surviving examples in all grades, with one coin impounded in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and two others in slightly impaired condition. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer one of the finest-known examples of this classic rarity in our January 2014 FUN Signature Auction. The official New Orleans Mint Report for 1838 makes no mention of any half dollars struck that year, although two pairs of 1838-dated half dollar dies were mailed from the Philadelphia Mint in April and received in New Orleans by May 3, 1838. Many problems beset the newly operational facility, which struck its first coins, a small run of 30 dimes, on May 8, 1838. The coin press promptly broke down, and coinage could not be resumed until May 22, when a somewhat larger mintage of 20,000 dimes was accomplished. The press was damaged again towards the end of May, and coinage was suspended until mid-July, when a really substantial mintage of 345,000 dimes was achieved by the end of the month. The New Orleans Mint shut down from August 2 through November 1, 1838, due to the annual epidemic of yellow fever. When the facility reopened, operations were quite slow, and a small mintage of 35,000 dimes delivered on December 29 was the only coinage accomplished for the rest of the year. The New Orleans Mint records clearly show there was no opportunity to strike half dollars in 1838, but at least nine examples of the issue are extant today, posing one of the most intriguing questions in all of U.S. numismatics: When and where were these coins struck?
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