The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 44, November 2, 2008, Article 17


Responding to a note in Karl Moulton's Winter 2008 numismatic literature fixed price list, last week I wrote:
The best compilation of 1838-O pedigrees is in David L. Ganz's new book, Profitable Coin Collecting (p177-178). There is a "Benson" specimen listed from an 1880 Bangs & Co. sale (it realized $23.50). Could this be the Beeson specimen?

1838o_half_dollar_smithsonian_obv John N. Lupia III writes:
It certainly is the Besson specimen. Charles Steigerwalt listed the price realized "1838-O half dollar, uncirculated, $23.50" in his article, .Coin Sales,. The Coin Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, March (1881) : 2

I do not have David Ganz's book so I do not know what he includes. My research is focused on 19th century numismatics and I have the following to report to offer.

[01] Mason's Coin Collector's Herald, Vol. 1, No. 4, March (1880) : 33, cites an uncirculated one in the cabinet of the US Mint. Currently, the Smithsonian specimen. Sent to Robert M. Patterson, Director of the US Mint. However, no mention of it is made in his annual report to Congress. (see scan) Mason's Coin Collector's Herald, Vol. 2, No. 2, September (1880) : 14, cites six known specimens including the US Mint cabinet already mentioned as well as that owned by James B. Clemens which was cataloged by Ed Cogan and sold by Messrs. Bangs & Co., on October 22, 1878. He also mentions one in a collection in Nevada, another in Lynn, Massachusetts, and another owned by C. H. Brenner, Jefferson, New York. A rubbing of one was sent in to Mason from Texas which he was negotiating to buy.

[02] James B. Clemens, cataloged by Ed Cogan and sold by Messrs. Bangs & Co., on Octobe7r 22, 1878.

[03] December 16-17, 1880, John W. Haseltine, Cataloger, Catalogue of Charles A. Besson Collection, of Philadelphia . . . . Bangs & Co. Charles Steigerwalt listed the price realized "1838-O half dollar, uncirculated, $23.50" (Besson sale) in his article, .Coin Sales,. The Coin Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, March (1881) : 2

[04] Nevada, as per E. L. Mason, Jr. Nothing is known of this person.

[05] Lynn, Massachusetts, as per E. L. Mason, Jr. There was an S. L., Lynn, cited in Mason.s Monthly Illustrated Coin Collectors. Magazine, Vol. I, No. 1, June (1884) : 13; a long shot since I do not know where S. L. Lee lived but his coin collection was sold by John Walter Scott on June 12, 1899. Regardless, we have only straws to grasp to decipher who this anonymous person could be.

[06] C. H. Brenner, Jefferson, New York, as per E. L. Mason, Jr. However, we also find a C. R. B., Jefferson, Soho County, New York, cited in Mason.s Numismatic Herald, Vol. II, No. 1, June (1880) :2d, leaving us to wonder if this is C. R. Brenner or C. H. Brenner, or else a unlikely but possible coincidence of similar initials of coin collectors from the same place at the same time.

[07] Texas, as per E. L. Mason, Jr. Nothing is known of this person.

Some of he remaining specimens cited maybe redundant of those cited above since the provenance of purchasers are not listed in my files. E-Sylum readers may contribute to clarifying the census if they have priced catalogs with buyer.s names.

[08] Ferguson Haines specimen cataloged by the Chapman brothers sold at Davis & Harvey, Philadelphia, on October 17, 1888. Later called the Empire Specimen. See below.

[09] The Robert Coulton Davis specimen cataloged by David Proskey and Harlan Page Smith of the New York Coin & Stamp Company (3rd Sale) sold by Bangs & Co., on January 20-24, 1890, with a lot description commentary from Dr. Riddell, superintendent N.O. Mint, 1838, which accompanied a similar half dollar, in which it was stated that only four half dollars of this date and mintage were issued . . .. Heritage Auction Galleries who follow Breen, Walter Breen.s Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins (New York : Doubleday, 1988) : 391 (no. 4) the provenance of the Norweb Specimen. J.N.T. Levick; W. Elliot Woodward; R. Coulton Davis; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 655; James B. Wilson (Thomas Elder, 10/1908), lot 346; Albert Fairchild Holden; Emery May Holden (Mrs. R. Henry Norweb); Norweb family (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3119; unknown; Andrew Lustig.

According to Breen (op. cit) and Heritage, sometime between 1880 and 1890 the above specimen passed from Joseph Napoleon Tricot Levick (1828-1908), to William Elliot Woodward (1825-1892), to Robert Coulton Davis (1813-1888), and was purchased by Lorin Gilbert Parmelee (1827-1905).

[10] Professor Alexander D. Bache was given one as a gift from Rufus Tyler the coiner. The Professor William M. Friesner specimen was cataloged and sold by Edouard Frossard on June 7-8, 1894. Frossard mentions this in an article, .The 1838 Half Dollar New Orleans Mint,. The Numismatist, Vol. 7, No. 7, July (1894) : 138 (see scan) The specimen was purchased by Augustus Goodyear Heaton (1844-1931). The note from Tyler was given to Heaton by Benjamin H. Collins (1845-1928), an employee of the Treasury Department, who, was also a Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. coin dealer specializing in early American coppers.

[11] The Chapman brothers cataloged a specimen belonging to one of the consigners, either Elisha Turner, Joseph Hooper, George J. Bauer, Louis Winkler, or J. C. Trenaman that sold at Davis & Harvey, Philadelphia, on February 5-6, 1903.

[12] The William H. Bridgham proof specimen cataloged by David Proskey and Harlan Page Smith of the New York Coin & Stamp Company (23rd Sale) sold by May 26-27th, 1908

Nota Bene : Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green (1868-1936), son of Hetty Green .The Witch of Wall Street., apparently owned seven specimens according to Walter H. Breen (vide supra) Note : Breen incorrectly cited The Numismatist as Vol. 4 1894, 198. It should be Vol. 7, page 138. See also below in asterisks.

Additional specimens also cited by Heritage Auction Galleries on the above link.

*Cox Specimen. Col. E.H.R. Green; Burdette G. Johnson; Wayte Raymond; J.G. Macallister; Charles M. Williams (a likely owner); Numismatic Gallery; Adolphe Menjou Collection; R.E. Cox, Jr. (Stack's, 4/1962), lot 1873; Empire Coin Co. (Q. David Bowers and James E Ruddy); Hazen B. Hinman (Paramount, Century Collection, 4/1965), lot 1151; unknown; Bowers and Ruddy Galleries (Rare Coin Review #17); Ellis H. Robison (Stack's, 2/1982), lot 1605; Marvin Browder.

*Neil Specimen. Waldo C. Newcomer; Henry Chapman; Col. E.H.R. Green; Maurice Ryan; B. Max Mehl (May 1945), lot 936; Will W. Neil (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 580; James Aloysius Stack (Stack's, 3/1975), lot 415; Julian Leidman; New York City Collection; Steve Ivy (ANA sale, 8/1982), Lot 2320; Anthony Terranova; Kevin Lipton; George W. Vogt (Colonial Coins); RARCOA (Auction '84), lot 1666; David Queller (Stack's, 10/2002), lot 446. The enlarged reverse in the Queller Catalog is incorrect, and is actually the 1836 Reeded Edge Half Dollar.

*Atwater Specimen. Col. E.H.R. Green; William Cutler Atwater (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 555; unknown; Reed Hawn (Stack's, 8/1973), lot 122; Superior (Auction '79), lot 1569; James Bennett Pryor (Bowers and Merena, 1/1996); Doug Noblet; Bowers and Merena (10/2000).

*Baldenhofer Specimen. The coin presently offered. Col. E.H.R. Green; W.G. Baldenhofer (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 708; Robert Pelletreau (Stack's, 3/1959), lot 782; Jerome L. Cohen; Lester Merkin; Q. David Bowers; Charles Jay (Stack's, 10/1967), lot 181; Dr. E. Yale Clarke (Stack's, 10/1975), lot 253; Julian Leidman; NASCA (Bryan Collection, 11/1977), lot 708; Julian Leidman; Paramount (Auction '82), lot 1689; unknown; the present example.

*Boyd Specimen. Col. E.H.R. Green; Wayte Raymond; F.C.C. Boyd; Numismatic Gallery ("World's Greatest Collection," 4/1945), lot 410; Stack's (1971 ANA sale), lot 805; Dr. George J. Oviedo (Stack's, 9/1983), lot 830.

*Anderson-Dupont Specimen. Col. E.H.R. Green; Anderson-Dupont sale (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 2104; Mr. Gottschalk; Federal Coin Exchange (1957 ANA sale), lot 1535A; "TAD" Collection (Stack's); Julian Leidman; Steve Ivy; Manfra, Tordella, and Brookes; Kagin's (1983 ANA), lot 2494; Mid-American (5/1985), lot 392; Kagin's (1986 ANA sale), lot 4657A; H.W Blevins (Superior, 6/1988), lot 3567; Bowers and Merena (3/1989), lot 2000; Vintage Auctions (8/1989), lot 202.

*Empire Specimen. New Orleans private collection; Ferguson Haines; (S.H. & H. Chapman, 10/1888), lot 483; Col. E.H.R. Green; Charles A. Cass (Stack's, Empire Collection, 11/1957), lot 1344; Stack's "Empire Collection" sale, November 1957, Lot 1344; New Netherlands Coin Company; Jerome L. Cohen; Kreisberg-Schulman (4/1967), lot 1065; Kreisberg Mail Bid Sale (6/1970), lot 1044.

Guggenheimer Specimen. Fred S. Guggenheimer (Stack's, 10/1953), lot 830. (#6226)

David L. Ganz writes:
A transpositional error was the cause of the difficulty in the book. "Benson" is Besson or Beeson (a Google search shows both spelling variants). In the actual catalogue the consignor is listed as Charles Besson Esq of Philadelphia.

Regarding the Mint cabinet specimen, John adds:
The 1838-O was supposedly given to Director Patterson in 1839. The 1840 report shown here is on all New Orleans Mint activity for 1839. Apparently Patterson's report focused purely on statistics and gross dollar amounts and makes no reference to any specific denomination or about his receiving a specimen of the 1838-O half dollar.

Mint Report 1839

I sent this in so people who never saw this report can see it corroborated that there is no mention of the half dollar specifically. I do not have the 1838 report to see if any mention was made in it.

So - would any of our readers who have access to a copy of the 1839 Mint Director's report reply with an update? Is there any mention of the 1838-O half dollar? -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

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