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

2013 January 9-14 US Coin FUN Signature Auction - Orlando #1181

  • Auctioneer:
    Heritage Auctions
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Lot Description
1838-O 50C PR64BM PCGS. The "BM" designation stands for "Branch Mint," signifying that PCGS recognizes this coin as a proof strike. The 1838-O Reeded Edge half dollar ranks among the most famous of all American coinage issues, comparable in value and rarity to such iconic branch-mint issues as the 1894-S dime and the 1870-S silver dollar. The inclusion of an example in a collection enshrines the owner in the elite ranks of American numismatists. The official report from the New Orleans Mint indicates no half dollars were struck at that facility in 1838. This lack of official documentation has resulted in much confusion over the years, with several ingenious theories introduced to explain the existence of the coins, which everyone agrees were not struck at New Orleans in 1838. Recent discoveries by several researchers have caused a change of thinking about the origins of the 1838-O and its fundamental nature. In the recently published monograph The Surprising History of the 1838-O Half Dollar, Heritage numismatists David Stone and Mark Van Winkle present evidence that the 1838-O was struck on two occasions, with Originals struck in early 1838 at the Philadelphia Mint as essais, to test the dies, and Restrikes made in January 1839 at the New Orleans Mint, to test a newly arrived coin press. The design of the half dollar was constantly evolving in the late 1830s. The Reeded Edge design took over from the Lettered Edge type with the advent of close-collar technology, beginning in 1836. Modifications continued to be made until the Seated Liberty design was finally adopted in 1839. The reverse design was changed in 1838, with the denomination expressed as HALF DOL. instead of the 50 CENTS inscription of previous years. Thicker letters were used in the legend, and a few minor stylistic changes were made to the eagle as well. One of the most important changes took place on the obverse, where a prominent O mintmark was placed above the date. The United States had never issue
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