The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 26, June 23, 2013, Article 14


Finest grade 1794 Half Cent

Alan V. Weinberg writes:

On the PCGS Coin Forum under the Missouri Cabinet blog, Fred Weinberg provides the fascinating story of his 1975 tiny Swiss village acquisition of the finest 1794 half cent (of any variety) ever discovered and now estimated at half a million dollars in the Tettenhorst sale.

Fred's story is republished below. Follow the link at the end to read the other forum discussions. -Editor

Here's the story of how I came across that 1794 Half Cent, High Relief Head :

I started going to Europe in 1973, with Harry Gordon, who was the owner of Numismatics, Ltd., in Beverly Hills (I was almost 23 years old when I started there).

We would go to Europe every 5-6 weeks - London, Paris, Brussels, Zurich (and lots of other cities in Switzerland too) - buying US Gold coins in large quantities.

In early 1975, on one of our trips to Zurich, our contact and good friend there, Heiner Stuker, (a major Swiss coin dealer), told us about a small local coin show being held in a small town, about 1.5-2 hours outside of Zurich.

It was a Friday, I believe, and all three of us went to the show - a very very small town, in the middle of nowhere (but beautiful). The show was held in a Round building (yes, round! I had never seen a round building like this before), and when we walked in, there were small, simple tables with local dealers/vest pocket dealers showing their material in trays - I don't think there were more than one or two dealers that had showcases there - the coins were in diff. types of velvet trays for viewing.

At that point, all I had learned to say in Swiss Dueutch (Swiss German) was the phrase:

"Habben ze Americanisha Gold Munzen?" (Do you have any American Gold coins?)

I walked around asking that question, finding a few coins here and there, but nothing like we usually bought at the Banks in the Cities we frequented.

As I'm making my rounds (literally!!) I get to a table with an older gentleman and his wife; they didn't look like coin dealers, but more like farmers who had a small amount of European copper and silver coins on their trays - absolutely nothing special or rare, as far as I could tell.

I gave them my usual "Habben Ze Americanisha Gold Munzen?" question, and the man looked at me, and started to talk fast in Swiss German - which I really didn't understand much of....... I repeated "American Gold Munzen", and he hesitated for a second, turned around, and went into his folio (some type of briefcase behind the table), and pulled out two coins - a 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter in VF, and a 1794 Half Cent.

I remember this like it was yesterday - the round room was kinda dark, and there were no table lamps at his table - so, my very first look/glance at the coin, and I said to myself:

"That looks too good to be real - must be a restrike - wait, they didn't make any restrikes of 1794 half cents!" - all in 2 seconds, in my mind!

At 3 seconds, I knew it was real, and I asked "Vass iss da price?" (What is the price?)

He quoted me in Swiss Francs, which I calculated quickly as being about U.S. $1,200 or so.

I quickly paid him for both coins, found Harry and Heiner, and showed them the two pieces I bought. I told Heiner how wonderful the Half Cent was, and he went over to the table, and asked the man about the coins, and if he had more. He replied something to the effect that 'the copper coin has been in this village for a long time, passed down from family'.

The impression I got at the time was that someone from this village went to the United States in 1794/95, and brought back this lowest-denomination US coin as a souvenir of their visit - and it had been in this small town/village since that time!

At the show there, I didn't know it was a High Relief Head - I just thought that as a real nice 1794 Half Cent, it had to be worth $5k or more. I was so excited about this coin, that I didn't put it in our Brinks shipment of Gold, going back to Beverly Hills - I carried in in my briefcase home, as I didn't want it to get caught up in US customs at LAX, and be delayed for some reason.

Back at Numismatics, Ltd., I started researching the coin, and soon found out it was a "High Relief Head", and probably (at the time) the finest known of that variety. As the months went by, the value of the coin, in my head, went to $10K, $15k, etc. - till about 6 months later, when we printed up a very nice small brochure on the coin, and priced it at $35,000.......didn't sell it at the next 2-3 shows, and so about 2 months later, we entered into discussions with Julian Leidman, who had 'The' customer for it - and, if I remember correctly, we sold it to Julian for $30,000 (I might be off by a grand or two).

I have very fond memories of this coin - it was my first major rarity that I was responsible for figuring out what I had - the Die Variety, history, pricing, etc......and I thoroughly enjoyed all the time spent researching it......

That's the story of the 1794 High Relief Half Cent - hope you enjoyed it.

Do any of our readers have a copy of that Numismatics, Ltd. brochure in their ephemera collections? -Editor

To read the complete article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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