One of the finest examples of this rare date to survive from this early period at the Philadelphia Mint. The toning ranges through a blend of milk to dark chocolate, with satin smooth texture and a trace of original mint red near the rims and a blush of blue over the obverse. A strong loupe will reveal the stunning quality of the devices and fields, as they are both utterly free of signs of contact, or importantly spotting of any consequence. The strike is, of course, sharp throughout with each star showing full radial lines, and the curls on Liberty with the highest level of separation. On the reverse the leaves and lettering are also full and completely struck up by the die.
The rarity of the 1831 Half Cent is legendary. Apparently a tiny number were struck for circulation of the so-called Originals, of which about 20 are known in various grades. In addition to these circulation strikes a dozen or so Original Proofs were struck. As Proof collecting became more popular, a few more were coined, but using a different reverse die with the same obverse used to coin the Originals. The present coin is one of these, a so called "First Restrike" of which perhaps 20 to 30 are known. Of those certified by PCGS, a single example grades a point finer, and the present coin is tied with one other as the second finest seen of this variety within the brown category. Two others are reported as PR-66 by PCGS, one in each the Red Brown category and the Red category. The reverse die cracked severely during the limited production of these First Restrike Proofs, with a meandering bisecting crack slicing through the upper left third of the reverse, this crack is sharply visible on the present coin. Another crack formed down to the right, branching off the first crack and coinage ceased. Never fear, a few more were needed so a Second Restrike 1831 Half Cent was created by mating the same obverse die with a third reverse die, this of the style of 1840. Perhaps half a dozen of these were struck before 1831 Proof Half Cent coinage finally came to a halt. For the collector who demands quality, eye appeal and rarity, the present coin has it all.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
Among Half Cents the so-called proof-only dates are the crème de la crème, rarest of the rare. These encompass 1836, 1840 to 1848, 1849 Small Date and 1852. For these years there were no circulation strikes produced. To this elite group can be added the 1831. The circulation production was so small that it hardly counts today, projecting the 1831 as a great rarity. It is interesting to contemplate that as nearly a dozen proof-only Half Cent dates were made, the challenge of acquiring them has been quite daunting to many specialists, who have elected to acquire simply the circulation strikes (in which case, to be technical, an 1831 would be needed). This has resulted in prices for these Half Cent rarities that are far below what they would be if there were just one or two such dates. Accordingly, it seems that there is a lot of value available in the marketplace today.
The PCGS insert states this is the reverse of 1840, but it is not, this is the First Restrike variety.