Toned with iridescent blue and champagne with traces of darker green and russet intermixed over the mirror surfaces. An exceedingly rare early Proof, which boasts full mirror fields and a bold strike. Liberty's hair curls flash with reflective brilliance, and each star has full radials. On the reverse the eagle's feathers display similar reflectivity within their tiny folds and the legends show bold definition. Although these same dies were also used for circulation strikes later, at this early state the freshness of the engraving and high degree of die polish is evident. As seen faintly in the stars, light die cracks have already started to form, also on the reverse through the legends and leaves, diagnostic to this variety. A few faint hairlines are present which account for the grade, but do not affect the overall appeal. For identification there is a minute nick at the base of Liberty's neck above the 1 in the date and a small toning speck over the eagle's head in the field. Of further note, the famed 1838-O Proof half dollars were also struck with this same reverse die, but slightly earlier than the present coin.
The number known appears to be between four and five of this rare Proof issue. The combined Census and Population Report information tally the following: PR-65 (NGC); PR-64 (NGC); PR-63 (NGC) this coin; PR-62 (NGC) and PR-40 (PCGS). One other coin of note is a SP-62 (NGC). There is possible duplication within these grading events and one wonders about the PR-40 coin reported by PCGS as with enough wear and being struck by the same dies as the circulation strikes, would there be enough Proof surface remaining to differentiate it. Nevertheless, there are precious few of these and they are seldom available for collectors at all.
The known specimens of these Proofs include:
1 - The present coin. PR-63 (NGC) tiny nick at base of neck, speck over eagle's head.
2 - Proof, deeply toned. Planchet defect over eagle's head. F.C.C. Boyd, "World's Greatest Collection" Numismatic Gallery, May 1945, lot 411; Allenburger Collection, B. Max Mehl 1948; R.E. Cox Collection, Stack's April 1962, lot 1875
3 - Reported by Breen in the Philip G. Straus Collection in 1951 but not offered in either of the subsequent Straus Auctions by New Netherlands #53 or Stack's June 1959. Medal turn alignment
4 - Robison Collection, Stack's February 1982, lot 1607.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
Many years ago in the 1950s and early 1960s brothers Art Kagin and Paul Kagin, trading as the Hollinbeck Coin Company, had what they called the Kagin Reference Collection. This showed examples of certain scarcities and rarities, among which was a very nice Proof 1839-O half dollar. I remember looking at it and asking to examine it closely under magnification, which I did.
NGC Census: 1; 2 finer (PR-65 finest).
Lester Merkin's Krouner Collection Auction, February 1971, lot 736; our (Stack's) sale of September 1992, lot 358; and our (Stack's) George "Buddy" Byers Collection sale, October 17, 2006, lot 1098.