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

LB Signature Sale #460

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    Heritage Auctions
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Lot Description
1838-O 50C PR63 Branch Mint PCGS. CAC. JR-1, R.7. What defines a classic American numismatic rarity? Is it an extremely low mintage figure, or are certain coins considered classics because of their combination of a beautiful design, historical significance, and limited availability? Perhaps it is the mystique surrounding special coins, such as the 1913 nickel, 1804 dollar, or the 1933 double eagle that account for their status as classic rarities and their accompanying multi-million dollar price tags. By all of the above attributes, the 1838-O is a classic and, unequivocally, one of the most celebrated and sought-after properties in America's numismatic history. However, it is the mystery surrounding the 1838 O-mint halves that tends to elicit the most intrigue from collectors, dealers, and researchers alike. First of all, how many were struck? The generally accepted mintage figure is 20 coins, based upon a handwritten note that accompanied the 1838-O half dollar sold as lot 583 in the June 1894 Friesner Collection by Edouard Frossard. As recorded in Breen (1988), the handwritten note was inscribed as follows: "The enclosed specimen coin of the U.S. branch mint at New Orleans is presented to Pres. Bache by Rufus Tyler the coiner. It may be proper to state that not more than 20 pieces were struck with the half dollar dies of 1838." Alexander D. Bache was the first president of Girard College in Philadelphia and, according to research by Karl Moulton, Tyler's prior chemistry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, thus providing a motive for the gift from Tyler. As a side note, Girard College was founded in 1833 but did not technically open until 1848. Nonetheless, Bache was president, in a limited capacity, of the college when he received the 1838-O half specimen. The current disposition of this particular specimen is unknown and not included in the pedigree roster below, suggesting that an additional example of this rare issue may be extant. The 1838-O half sol
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