Of all half dimes in the American series, this variety is particularly distinctive. Its grade, a splendid MS-64 certified by PCGS, is remarkable in itself. Its pedigree from the incomparable Eliasberg Collection is likewise important. However, the coin itself -- the overdate feature and the Draped Bust motif -- make it particularly distinctive.
The Draped Bust design was introduced in silver in 1795 on the dollar, with the first die being BB-51, with the Liberty Head motif placed slightly too far left on the obverse. Then followed BB-52, the second and final Draped Bust die. In 1795 no dimes or quarters had yet been made. Half dollars were of the Flowing Hair style. A silver half dime die was prepared with a 1795 date and the Draped Bust motif, but never used -- a “what might have been” situation. Then, in 1796 the die was overdated to create the variety offered here.
The offered coin is frosty deep golden-gray with fiery orange iridescence in the protected areas, especially among Liberty's tresses, and with a bold array of royal blue and rose toning at the peripheries. The strike is bolder than typically seen with sharp hair details to Liberty's portrait and nearly complete plumage for the eagle, its eye weak yet plainly evident (often these fine details are completely lost in the striking process, but not so here).
We note a faint reverse crack from rim to rim at 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock, crossing the second T in STATES and the wreath as well as the eagle's breast before joining the rim at the latter position. This is far and away among the finest known examples of the date and variety, the only MS-64 example certified by PCGS, and certainly in the very front rank. This beautiful early half dime has graced some of the finest numismatic cabinets ever formed in America, and now the opportunity to add it to your collection presents itself.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
This is one of my all-time favorite half dimes, telling as it does the story about the advent of the Draped Bust type. In this excellent state of preservation, plus the incomparable pedigree to the Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, here indeed is a winner.
PCGS Population: just 1; with a lone MS-66 finer.
From S.H. and H. Chapman's sale of the E.S. Norris Collection, May 1894; J.M. Clapp; Clapp estate (1942), to Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; and our (Bowers and Merena's) sale of the Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, May 1996, lot 895.