The historical significance of this issue was defined by none other than George Washington who, in his address to Congress on November 6, 1792, identified these coins as a regular coinage of the United States Mint, as follows:
In execution of the authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our Mint. Others have been employed at home. Provisions have been made for the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dismes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.
By use of the phrase "now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment" in relation to the "requisite buildings" for the Mint, the president noted that the actual Mint buildings were not yet ready for operations. Accordingly, the 1792 half dismes were struck outside of the future Mint building, but probably using Mint equipment and definitely under the authority and supervision of Mint personnel. The actual location where these coins were struck is thought to have been the cellar of John Harper's shop at the corner of Sixth and Cherry streets in Philadelphia.
Although closely related to the 1792 "proposed coinage" of the United States Mint, and listed among them on pages 88-90 in the 2014 edition of the Guide Book, President Washington's address clearly establishes the 1792 half disme as a regular issue of the United States Mint. It is the first regular issue U.S. Mint coin, as such, evidence for which also comes from the fact that some 1,500 silver impressions were made -- far too high a mintage for a proposed (i.e., pattern) coin. Additionally, the 1792 half disme as an issue clearly circulated, and not only because Washington linked the production of these coins to a need for small change in commercial channels at that time. Most survivors of this issue are worn, some extensively, and it is obvious that many 1792 half dismes spent a considerable amount of time in circulation as coinage of the realm. Perhaps 100 are known today in all grades from this small issue.
In addition to its historical significance as the first regular issue coin struck under authority of the United States Mint, the 1792 half disme enjoys such strong demand among advanced collectors due to a couple of popular stories attached to this issue. The first has it that George Washington himself provided some of his own silverware to be melted down and coined into these half dismes. Another story suggests that the portrait of Liberty used on the obverse of these coins is a likeness of Washington's wife Martha.
Scarce in an absolute sense and rare from a market availability standpoint, surviving 1792 half dismes usually remain locked away in tightly held collections for long periods of time. The present example exhibits a strong strike with minor uneven wear on the reverse, commonly seen on this issue, and is toned in an elegant antique gray with deeper gray accents surrounding the devices and lettering. A couple of shallow old pin lines are found on the reverse, are not at all distracting and blend well into the patina.
Ranked 18th in the 2003 edition of the book 100 Greatest U.S. Coins by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
Paper envelope with collector notes included.