First year of issue for the United States Half Dollar, and a key-date coin in all grades, the 1794 Flowing Hair was produced to the extent of just 23,464 pieces. The second-year 1795 Flowing Hair would see a much larger delivery of 299,680 pieces, but in 1794 there was little indication that the Half Dollar would develop into the denomination of choice among contemporary bullion depositors well into the 19th century.
Numismatic scholars have identified 11 die marriages of the 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar, with O-105 being in the second level of availability after O-101 and alongside O-103 and O-104. The obverse die of this O-105 variety is easy to identify since star 2 is solidly attached to the lowermost hair curl. In this marriage, the obverse is mated to a reverse on which a leaf in the wreath is joined to the right base of the letter I in UNITED.
The Spring 2010 revision to the reference Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized for Bust Half Dollars: 1794-1839 by Stephen J. Herrman lists the Eliasberg specimen as the finest-known 1794 O-105 Half Dollar. That coin, certified AU-58 by PCGS, made its most recent auction appearance as lot 2003 in Stack’s November 2007 sale of the Amherst and Waccabuc collections. The author of Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized is obviously not aware of the Cardinal Collection specimen, however, for it does not appear to be included in the census of known examples of the O-105 die pair.
We believe that this coin is the only example of the variety certified as Mint State by the major grading services, which makes it an obvious candidate for Condition Census #1. It is also one of no more than six separate 1794 Half Dollars of all die marriages certified as Mint State, and is obviously also high in the Condition Census for the issue as a whole, placing as the second-finest certified with just one single specimen certified higher. The die state is actually intermediate between O-105 and O-105a with a reverse crack (as struck) just beginning to form through the first letter T in STATES. The central reverse is sharply struck, however, and there is absolutely no indication of the die sinking that would later develop in this marriage. The overall definition is actually sharp, and it is difficult for us to imagine a 1794 Half Dollar that would be closer to full in this regard. Richly toned in olive-copper patina, a few blushes of more vivid reddish-apricot iridescence are scattered about at the right-obverse and –reverse borders. There are no abrasions of note, and the only worthwhile pedigree markers are concentrations of faint adjustment marks (as made) on the reverse in the field above the eagle, over and around the eagle’s tail and at the border over and before the letters AM in AMERICA.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all die pairs): just 2; with a mere two finer (PCGS MS-64 finest).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF).