Writing in the 1998 book Federal Half Dimes: 1792-1837, Russell J. Logan and John W. McCloskey describe the 1794 LM-3 as, “A scarce die marriage that is difficult to locate in mint state.” The authors go on to mention an MS-66 example (certified by NGC, incidentally) that was auctioned by Heritage as lot 5830 in the firm’s September 1998 sale. Being familiar with that other example, and not just relying on the different grades on the NGC holders, this cataloger can definitely say that the NGC MS-67 from the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation is much the superior coin. It is actually the single highest-graded 1794 Half Dime of any die marriage listed at PCGS and NGC, and it is therefore Condition Census #1 for both the issue and the variety.
Both sides of this coin are so smooth as to almost defy belief for a product of the early United States Mint. This piece has obviously been well cared for since the day of striking, as there is not even a single detracting abrasion, carbon spot or other blemish. The quality of strike is also superior to that typically encountered for the type. Both sides are essentially full in detail, the bottom of the obverse portrait and the eagle’s breast feathers in the center of the reverse being most significant in this regard. The denticles are broad and fully delineated at the borders, there are no as-struck anomalies such as planchet flaws and a pair of prominent die cracks (as struck) that bisect the eagle’s legs (horizontally) and tail (vertically) do little more than attribute the V-3A die state. The obverse die is in the characteristic state of the LM-3 marriage with a faint crack (again, as made) bisecting the top of Liberty’s head from the border outside 6 to the border outside the letter E in LIBERTY. With such impressive credentials for striking and preservation, we cannot help but wonder whether this coin was prepared for presentation or other special purposes. It is certainly the most exquisite 1794 Half Dime to pass through this cataloger’s hands. Creamy satin-textured luster to both sides, with an overlay of delicate champagne-gold iridescence that appears to deepen in shade ever so slightly at the borders.
Discounting the 1792 Half Disme that was prepared in temporary facilities before construction of the actual Mint building, the 1794 is the first Half Dime attributable to the United States Mint. It is one of only two issues in the short-lived Flowing Hair series designed by Robert Scot, the total mintage of which is 86,416 pieces. The vast majority of those coins were delivered from 1795-dated dies, and the mintage of the 1794 is estimated at just 7,756 pieces by Logan and McCloskey in their aforementioned Half Dime book. In addition to its historic significance, therefore, the 1794 is such an important coin in U.S. numismatics because of its scarcity even in circulated grades. Mint State coins are nothing short of rare, especially from a market availability standpoint, such is the strong demand that this issue enjoys among advanced collectors.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population: just 1; 0 finer.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF).