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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 18, May 4, 2008, Article 16

AUTHOR DETAILS EXTENSIVE SEARCH FOR 1838-O HALF DOLLAR INFORMATION

[E-Sylum contributor David Ganz published a Numismatic News
article yesterday detailing his long search for pedigree
information on the 1838-O half dollar.  Kudos to David for
his persistence and ultimate success.  -Editor]

The 1838-O half dollar is a genuine rarity, with only 20
pieces struck and the fate, 170 years after striking, of just
about a dozen known pieces in existence  leaves some unaccounted
for. I’ve liked this coin for many years and made it a centerpiece
of my new book that Krause is publishing in July, “Profitable
Coin Collecting.”

More than 50 public auction sales of this coin are of record,
some over a hundred years ago. The Mickley sale in 1867 by
Woodward saw the coin offered as Lot 1782 and the selling
price of $2.75. The same coin was acquired by J. P. Clemens
and when Edward Coogan sold his collection in 1878.  Lot 159
contained the same coin and brought $15.

Frossard sold his own collection Oct. 2, 1884 and Lot 400 in
that sale featured an 1838 New Orleans half dollar which
brought the “enormous” price of $63 only to find an early
case of economic recession in the coin field so that by the
time Lorin Parmalee sold his collection in 1890, the coin
stepped back to $23.50.

Thomas Elder sold the Wilson collection in October 1908,
and Lot 346 featured the very same 1838-O half dollar. It
resounded to a $570 mark. In the span of 40 years, the coin
rose in value from $2.75 to almost $600 – weekly wages in
the United States at the time averaged about $6.

In the 1950s, the Anderson-Dupont sale by Stacks yielded a
$3,500 price realized for an impaired proof specimen. That
coin would be resold nine times in the succeeding half
century and form the basis of the mystery that has existed
for almost 20 years.

The unknown answer: an August 1989 sale as Lot 202. What
was the price realized?

This seemed like a fairly easy answer since at least seven
different sales since 1989 offered other coins, or even
this one, and referred to the auction sale, the lot, and
its pedigree. None of them, however, listed the price –
though they did for many other items.

I was beginning to think that this could be no sale or one
where no prices realized were printed or possibly both. Larry
Hanks then saved the day. “I was a partner with Vintage
Auctions at that time. I’ll see if I can find a copy of the
prices realized. I do know the coin did sell,” he e-mailed.
Now we’re cooking with gas.

He recalled that “A collector from the Northeastern part of
the United States was the buyer. If my memory serves me
correctly, the coin either sold for $45,000 or $50,000. I’ll
also check and see if I can find out who consigned the piece.”

[The article goes on to describe in detail Ganz' efforts to
locate and verify the needed information.  His trail led
him all the way to Ted Buttrey at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge,
here to the E-Sylum, and back again to Julian Leidman.  All
this for a footnote to a chart!  Dave's book is due out in
July. Look for it!  -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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