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Hall of Fame Coin Week!!! (Longwinded & Images)

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Has everyone here had one of these yet? I’ve had HoF deals, HoF days and HoF shows, but I’ve never had several independent transactions over a week that have added up to this.


This HoF week was earlier this month and it started innocently enough, as I was cruising ebay, yes ebay, when I came across a coin that has been on my want list for quite a while. It wasn’t a trivial coin in terms of its impact on my coin budget, but it was a nice looking coin and I thought that if I were ever going to get one that I would have to pay for it eventually. The coin is an 1836 Reeded Edge half dollar. This is an issue that I have looked for in mid-grades such as VF25-EF40, where the coin still has appreciable “meat” left on it, yet the grade is reduced enough so as to allow the price to fall with it. However, this particular RE half is not in that grade range, it’s a little higher, but the price differential was surprisingly small. I had expected to pay from $1,300 to $1,800 for an attractive, original, problem-free choice VF and a few-to-several hundred dollars more for a similar EF. If anyone has ever tracked these coins at auction they will immediately be aware of the fact that many of them that are slabbed by both PCGS and NGC are either dipped, lightly cleaned or both. This blight on the issue extends all the way down into my searched grade range and significantly affects eye appeal. The price, though, doesn’t drop much.


The ebay listing for this coin appeared to have potential as it was listed as an NGC AU55 and had a BIN that seemed downright reasonable. As we all know, key date coins like this aren’t typically offered with a reasonable BIN if they are also problem-free, original and attractive. Here, however, was the apparent exception to the rule. The image was dark, but the seller stated that the coin had zero issues and that it looked better than pictured. My hesitation arose from the fact that the return policy was stated as five days with permission of the seller. This is rather vague and leaves the seller the opportunity to decline a return even within the five-day window. The coin had just been listed and so I asked the seller a question about the possible return of the coin should I not like the look of it in-hand. The seller responded immediately, unlike the other seller whom I started a thread about last week, and stated that he would give me a 24 hour window after receipt of the coin to inform him of a return. This is more than reasonable, as anyone who is buying a coin should know very quickly if the coin is for them. Upon getting this email, I hit the BIN and waited anxiously for my new-found addition. Oddly enough, the price of this coin was roughly equivalent to that of a 2001 Jefferson nickel that had a thread written about it a week or so ago. Of course, the 2001 Jefferson nickel was a PCGS MS68FS coin, so it likely has a much higher Registry value…


Several days later, during what seemed like an eternity, my post office called to let me know that I had a Registered package waiting for me. Yes, the post office called me to let me know, we have very accommodating postal workers around here. The coin is an original, medium grey with good luster, appearing in-hand as a mossy glow, underneath the patina of toning and dirt. The color is balanced on obverse and reverse, the strike is better than what I am accustomed to for this series and the few marks, which are commensurate with the grade, are trivial. The coin is just as advertised. Let me repeat that, this was an ebay auction where the coin was just as advertised. Surprisingly, there is at least one die crack on the coin, coming down from the rim just right of the second S in STATES. I find this interesting since the mintage of the issue is tiny, just 1,200 pieces coined, that I had assumed there would be no die cracks. Does anyone have any idea how long dies had been used before they started to crack? I’m not writing about dies used today, I’m writing about dies contemporary with this coin. Apparently, they started to crack quickly. I looked the coin up in Breen and it seems that this is a well-known die crack for this coin (should it be named, anyone?) and that there was a delay in coining from the original date. Perhaps these dies were stored in an inappropriate manner that caused them to become somewhat brittle or fatigued? This is just a guess. A scan of the coin is below and it is every bit the original, attractive, problem-free choice AU that it was claimed to be.




Prior to the 1836 RE half even being delivered to me there was another coin that essentially fell into my lap. I was working and noticed that I had received an email. The email was from David Lawrence Rare Coin (DLRC) and they had found a coin that was on my want list. Unlike many other dealers, who will take a want list but who appear to refuse to work them, DLRC has notified me of several coins that I have been looking for. This makes good business sense as their database is not difficult to update and it will automatically generate business leads for them. This was another coin that I have been looking for several years for and have not had much success. Of course, I have seen a fair number of them offered, but I haven’t seen them in original, attractive and problem-free condition. This coin happens to be an 1807 Capped Bust half (CBH) graded PCGS VF20. Earlier this year there had been an NGC EF45 auctioned by Heritage and the coin looked terrific. I waited a little too long to bid and the Heritage server did not process my bid quickly enough, even though I placed my bid with several minutes remaining, so the auction closed without my bidding on it. I sent an email to Heritage about the coin and asked if they would contact the winning bidder to see if he/she would like to flip the coin for a quick profit, but never heard back from Heritage.


One of the reasons that I like this issue is that I believe there might be an accounting error in the US Mint records with respect to delivery of this coin as they are not anywhere near as available as currently accepted documents would suggest. This theory is not unique to me, Edgar Souders has also written about it in his book Bust Half Fever. Simply put, there may be too few die marriages for this year’s production of CBHs to account for the number of coins claimed minted as long as the die life is similar to the die life for subsequent years. It seems reasonable to conclude that die production would have increased its efficiency over the course of the CBH series with the production of better die steel. So, any difference in die marriage life would likely negatively effect the first year of issue, not the other way around. Also, the commercial offerings for the 1807 CBH vs the 1807 Draped Bust half (DBH) heavily tilt toward the availability of the DBH. Granted, 1807 is the generic year for DBH production, along with 1806, but 1807 is also the first year of CBH production and one might assume that some of those 1807 CBHs, even if it were relatively few, would have been saved as first-of-issue coins. As examples, the 1806 and 1807 DBHs saw 66,000 and 43,000 coins produced per obverse die, respectively, the 1820 CBH (with nearly identical recorded mintage as the 1807 CBH) had 125,000 coins produced per obverse die and most of the other low mintage CBH coins had numbers between those listed. The exceptions are the 1807 CBH and 1813 CBH, which both saw approximately 50% more coins produced per obverse die. Certainly, this can be a simple statistical anomaly, but in the case of the 1807 CBH I think there is more to it than that (sorry, Hoot). Part of the reason for this thinking is that I see 1813 CBHs offered more frequently than their 1807 brethren and I have noticed approximately a 3:1 ratio of 1807 DBH:1807 CBH offers.


Getting back to the coin, there was no image associated with the email so I quickly called them up and asked for one to be sent to me and within ten minutes I not only had the image but I had also bought the coin. In my opinion, this coin is superb for the grade and is likely undergraded by a fair amount. The obverse and reverse both have a deep, dusky, thick patina of brown, black and navy. The design elements stand out as if they were cameo cut. There are also no marks worthy of mention on the coin and the strike is well beyond what is normally associated for this date. The obverse dentils look to be fully formed, while the reverse dentils look weak, the stars are terrific and all of them have their center points, the hair, clasp and bust are boldly defined, the motto and reverse legends are not only complete but are also strong as are the talons. The only areas of weakness are the eagle’s head and neck area and the top of the eagle’s right wing. The latter mentioned area, for those of you not familiar with the CBH series, is nearly ubiquitously weak on this two-year design sub-type. Overall, I think PCGS blew the call on this coin as it is much nicer than any other VF20 I have ever seen. So, rhetorically, does this make PCGS conservative? I believe it makes them inconsistent, in this particular isolated instance, and serves to hurt the hobby/industry, and especially this submitter, rather than help. This coin is shown in the scan below and is truly exquisite. For the money I spent on this coin I could have instead bought a 1971-S PCGS PF68DCAM Kennedy half dollar, alternatively, I would have been able to put down less than 10% towards the previously mentioned 2001 Jefferson nickel.




The last entry into my HoF troika is a 1904-S Barber half in F12. This coin is raw and there is really no need to have it graded. Late one night toward the end of the week I was working and decided to check ebay again to see what Barber halves might be newly listed. I have been working on an original F-VF set of these coins for a while and it is very challenging. To my surprise I saw a new listing for a 1904-S Barber in F with a BIN at Greysheet . Experience has taught me that virtually every 1904-S Barber in F or VF will be either grossly overgraded, bent, corroded, scrubbed clean, holed and mounted or some combination of the above. They simply don’t exist. So, with a healthy dose of skepticism and a tiny bit of optimism I clicked the link. HOLY SMOKES!!! An accurately graded, original, attractive and problem-free 1904-S Barber half was staring up at me. I looked at it; it looked at me. I nearly fell off my chair. I swear it winked at me! My hands were literally trembling as I clicked the BIN as quickly as possible! The computer screen changed, the auction was ended and the coin was mine! I now began the long wait with attendant angst while wondering if the seller would back out, if the coin would get lost or if some other calamity would befall me and my newest, toughest Barber half.


Folks, if you don’t collect the Barber half series then I doubt that you can truly appreciate the magnitude of this coin in this grade range. Unlike today, half dollars were a workhorse of the economy when Barber coinage was issued. These coins saw continuous usage and were not saved in any great numbers. This is evidenced by the sheer volume of AG/G Barbers that are available at any show or on the web. David Feigenbaum had estimated that the average grade of extant Barbers is only about AG3 or slightly better. That is incredibly low and is even more amazing when one considers the numbers of low grade coins that were likely melted in the ‘70s and ‘80s silver booms. The 1904-S Barber half is fairly readily available up to G4 and then becomes slightly more difficult up to VG8, after VG8 however, they disappear. The occasional piece is seen in some lofty MS grade, but mid-range coins, even up to and including AU, don’t exist. This is the undisputed King of the mid-grade Barbers.


The Barber half series is so challenging in mid-grades, despite the laughable Greysheet prices for many of the coins, that I truly wondered if I would ever be fortunate enough to complete it in F-VF. There are no outright and famous key dates such as the 1909-S VDB Lincoln, 1916-D Mercury or even 1901-S Barber quarter. However, there is a seemingly endless procession of horribly scarce issues. They pepper the series throughout its length and various mintmarks. The obvious ones include the O and S mints from 1896 and 1897, the 1901-S and the P mint coins of 1913 through 1915. Difficult coins that are somewhat under the glare of the previous mentioned include the O and S mints from 1892 and 1893 and the 1898-O. Much of the rest of the series is viewed as “generic”, which is mind-boggling. Sleepers include the 1894 and 1903, among others. Truly, there are only a few coins in the entire run that are ever available with little effort in this grade range, these include the 1906-D, 1908-D, 1910-S and 1915-D. Nearly everything is difficult. Unfortunately, I read about and observed this series for about three years before jumping into it, and now the market is beginning to awaken. The reading was done to get familiar with the coins, the slight modifications to the design and the difficulties that would await me should I take the plunge. At this time I am approximately two-thirds finished with this beast of a series and am avidly scouring every resource to find nice potential additions. Since I have been fairly aggressive in my approach, I have been able to knock out every date mentioned thus far, and so only need the “easier” coins.


In the last two years I have had two friends of mine find 1904-S Barber halves, one in F12 and the other VF25; they were giddy with delight. It is now my turn with the present piece. This coin is a true F12. It is a medium depth grey that darkens as it approaches the rim, every letter in LIBERTY is visible, though the always-onerous BER is quite weak, and the reverse is just as nice. This clearly is not a coin that is pushing VF, but it is what it is and I am quite happy with it. My last price comparison shows that I might have been able to purchase a PCGS MS69 1995-D Paralympic Blind Runner commem, or put a 4% down payment on the now infamous 2001 Jefferson nickel; of course if I were hungry I might have purchased a generic MS65 Morgan and gotten fast food with the same money it cost to buy this prohibitively scarce key. Prior to purchasing this piece I had a really good coin week while after the purchase of this 1904-S I had a Hall of Fame week!



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A great story Tom, and even greater coins! Although they are all nice, my favorite coin of the bunch is the 1836 Reeded Edge half. It has a wonderful original look to it. thumbsup2.gif


Congratulations on you new additions! 893applaud-thumb.gif



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Tom, my congrats on a superb week for you! I'm sure you can attest to the fact they don't come much better then this with many, many far worse!


I'd also like to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your activities leading up to and thru the process of receiving the coins. You have a talent for intermingling this with historical facts, quoting experts and surmising on your own knowledge that made it educational, fun and interesting all at once. Very hard to do even for those who are supposed to know how to do it!!!


Thank you for holding my attention for 10 minutes! (Talk about hard to do if it doesn't involve Jeffersons)! 27_laughing.gif



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Please bring all 3 coins to Baltimore. I will return the favor by bringing some goodies of my own to show you.


I only read the first two-thirds of your dissertation, and will say that I agree with you wholeheartedly. I, too, am looking for a very nice 1836 RE 50c, preferably in ChAU. (Getting a bit nervous yet?) With a ridiculously low original mintage for that coin, it's easy to corner the market on nice, thoroughly original ChAU or ChMS specimens.


As for the 1807 CBH, I'm looking for one in a ChAU grade. No need to get nervous. As for its overall scarcity, I agree that it's a lot tougher than people expect. It's funny how the 15/2 is so expensive and sought-after, but it's common as sin compared to the 07.


As for the Barber, well, that's when my ADD kicked in. If you said something to the effect that it's a very tough date -- especially in gem original circ (oxymoron?) -- then I agree.


Anyway, please bring all three to Baltimore. Also, my buddies and I have a standing date with a waitress at a nearby steakhouse. If interested, let me know and we'll make every effort to accomodate your schedule. Or, you can contact Coinosaurus across the street as I always seem to forget which steakhouse...



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Fabulous story Tom. I love the coins but your tale makes the entire enterprise seem like a fantastic voyage! laugh.gif


Cogratulations on your finds. Your story on the Barber half makes the series quasi-interesting to me wink.gif



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Great story Tom. I really liked the Barber story. Not until you actually make an effort to put together a set like that will you appreciate it. I'm sure if I started one I'd end up pulling my hair out (what is left of it anyway) trying to find nice coins. It makes you realize WHY people put together sets of Kennedys and Jeffersons instead. They'll actually FINISH those sets....just throw enough money out there and you'll find what you need. 893whatthe.gif



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Wonderful post.


For me, that 1894-s Barber Half is what collecting is all about - a classy, original coin that played a major part in our nation's economic development.


I may join you in trying to assemble a Barber set - I have about 30 well circulated examples that my grandfather set aside from a sporting goods store he owned -- most are in the AG - VG range, but could form the core of a neat set nonetheless.

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Thanks for the comments, folks, I really appreciate them! grin.gif Thanks also for taking so much time to read the post. wink.gif


As you can tell, I had a great week and am very happy about it. The price comparisons to largely modern coins were done simply out of convenience. The 2001 Jefferson was the object of a thread very recently and it sold for what the 1836 RE sold for, so that matched up quite well. The other coins are coins that DLRC has on their web site right now, and since the 1807 CBH was from DLRC, I thought it easy to just pick out coins that matched the prices I paid. I promise, no Registry envy. 893whatthe.gif


Higashiyama, if it takes my writing a near-thesis dissertation in order to flush you out on the boards then I guess I will have my work cut out for me! wink.gif

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Wow, modern coin collectors should read your post 'cause I don't think many understand just how rare an 1836 coin with a 1,200 mintage is -much less one that's survived naturally toned. Nice find on all three!!!! smile.gif

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