Among the most important and rarest coins in the Rarities Night session of our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money is a 1794 half dime called Specimen-65 by NGC. This beautiful Gem is one of just a few pieces known in the Specimen format and is readily among the finest of those extant. The eye appeal is spectacular on this first-year issue. The smooth and attractive surfaces are lilac-gray throughout with hints of lively navy iridescence on the high points. And what high points they are! The design details on both sides are as sharp as ever presented for the design type, with plenty of hair detail on the obverse and with essentially full feathering on the reverse eagle. Additionally, the coin is perfectly centered and the dentils are full, except for a hint of weakness at the top of the reverse where the dentils are present but not as sharp as elsewhere. No planchet adjustment marks are present on either side, and even the tiny details of the eagle’s eye and nostril are present and sharp, not often found in circulation strikes of the issue.
Our cataloger noted: “Sometimes in American numismatics, especially among issues from the earliest days of the Mint, a coin comes along that is indeed special and that stands apart from the norm for the date. The present piece is one of those coins. There may have been a pressing need for top-notch specimens of this date at the time of issue, perhaps to pass out to visiting dignitaries at the Mint to show the quality available of this small half dime design type. We note that NGC lists a half dozen examples of the date called ‘specimen,’ and that 1794 is the only date in the early half dime series, through 1837, that shows a specimen coinage in their Census. Based on those figures alone, today’s collectors can readily appreciate the rarity of the issue.” This highlight is certain to be one of the main focal points of the sale, and once it takes its place in an advanced cabinet of early United States coins, it could be a number of years before a comparable piece comes around.