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HomeUS Coins1855 Braided Hair Half Cent : A Collector's Guide

1855 Braided Hair Half Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1855 Braided Hair Half Cent graded NGC MS65RD. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).
1855 Braided Hair Half Cent graded NGC MS65RD. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

Cohen-1. Eckberg 1-A. Breen-1. Rarity-1. The Philadelphia Mint struck 56,500 circulation strike Braided Hair half cent coins in 1855. The United States Mint would produce the copper coin for two more years before Congress acted to eliminate the half cent and reduce the one-cent coin to the small size, similar to the one-cent coin that we use today.

All 1855 half cents were struck with the Slanted 5 date style. Denticles from 2 o’clock to 7 o’clock are typically missing.

While some Braided Hair half cents only survive in Red Brown (or Red Brown Brown, as Lee Bellisario might say), the 1855 half cent is another matter altogether. Many examples of this issue survive in Mint State Red. Two small hoards likely contribute to this.

United States Assay Commission member Judge John P. Putnam acquired between 50 and 75 pieces from the Philadelphia Mint around the time of the 1864 Assay. These coins were dispersed over several multi-coin lots in W. Elliot Woodward’s sale of the A.W. Matthews Collection, held December 16-18, 1885.

A second cache–a much larger one containing a reported 500 Mint State Red 1855 half cents–was acquired by New York coin dealer Charlie French in the 1940s. According to Q. David Bowers, these coins trickled out into the market with little fanfare until all were sold “by about 1960.”

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The PCGS population for MS65RD coins increased from 21 in May 2023 to 42 in July 2023, where it remains as of March 2024. NGC’s population of MS65RD stood at one in 1993. That coin (not on our list) sold for $2,750 USD when offered by Heritage Auctions on January 5, 1994. The current NGC population (3/2024) sits at 13, with one finer.

Top Population: PCGS MS66RD (1, 3/2024). NGC MS65+RD (1, 3/2024). CAC MS65RD (9:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • PCGS MS66RD #42771679: GreatCollections, August 29, 2021, Lot 1032227 – View. Record Price. Top pop, pop one when sold.
  • PCGS MS65+RD #40313079: Heritage Auctions, November 2020, Lot 3287 – $5,493.60; Heritage Auctions, February 9, 2023, Lot 3008 – $6,600. TrueView available on PCGS CoinFacts. Scattered carbon spots throughout, especially on the right field of the obverse. Vertical hit on chin. Two small scratches to the right of star three. 
  • PCGS MS65+RD CAC #3443218: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, May 17, 2018, Lot 302 – $14.687.50; Heritage Auctions, January 11, 2023, Lot 3050 – $10,200. Dark spot in the left obverse field to the right of Liberty’s nose. Carbon spot between stars 10 and 11.
  • NGC MS65+RD CAC #5747098-020: New Netherlands Coin Company, sold privately, March 1967; Jon Hanson; Donald G. Partrick; “The Donald G. Partrick Collection”, Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2021, Lot 3784 – $16,800; Heritage Auctions, November 2, 2022, Lot 3047 – $14,400. Donald G. Partrick Collection on insert. Pedigree research assisted by Heritage Auctions. Thin diagonal scratch to the right of the to the denticles. Two small dark spots above Liberty’s lip. Carbon spot touching the bottom of star eight. 
  • PCGS MS65+RD #43373200: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, October 28, 2021, Lot 221 – $4,935.
  • PCGS MS65+RD #35028681: GreatCollections, January 26, 2020, Lot 791801 – View.
  • PCGS MS65+RD #36065597: As PCGS MS65+RD #34781852. Heritage Auctions, April 25, 2018, Lot 3056 – $4,800. As PCGS MS65+RD #36065597. Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2020, Lot 3054 – $5,160. Regraded. TrueView available on PCGS CoinFacts. Light spotting on the obverse and reverse. Carbon spot on star three. Tiny copper spot at the bottom of star 12.
  • PCGS MS65RD #2652664: “The Richard P. Ariagno, M.D. Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2013, Lot 3821 – $4,993.75; Heritage Auctions, May 9, 2024, Lot 3811 – $3,360.
  • PCGS MS65RD #9731090: Heritage Auctions, October 29, 2015, Lot 3027 – $4,230; Heritage Auctions, February 25, 2022, Lot 3418 – $3,500.40; Heritage Auctions June 6, 2022, Lot 93011 – $3,840; Heritage Auctions, February 27, 2023, Lot 53159 – $3,360.
  • PCGS MS65RD CAC #30451360: California Numismatic Funding, September 2005; “The James R. McGuigan Half Cent Collection”, Heritage Auctions, August 22, 2022, Lot 3115 – $22,800. McGuigan on insert. Small horizontal mark to the right of star three. TrueView available on PCGS CoinFacts.
  • PCGS MS65RD #42771679: Stack’s Bowers, April 5, 2022, Lot 3006 – $13,200. Certification number no longer active.
  • PCGS MS65RD #05366934: Heritage Auctions, September 30, 2002, Lot 41 – $3,220; GreatCollecftions, March 27, 2022, Lot 1120800 – View. Reholdered since. TrueView available on PCGS CoinFacts. Small scratch between stars 11 and 12. Small scratch above L in HALF. 
  • PCGS MS65RD #37113453: As PCGS MS65RD #2626469. Heritage Auctions, March 14, 2019, Lot 3015 – $3,240; As PCGS MS65RD #37113453. David Lawrence Rare Coins, August 15, 2021, Lot 1003 – $3,225. Regraded. D.L. Hansen novelty insert. “The George Schwenk Collection”, Stack’s Bowers, August 16, 2023, Lot 4001 – $3,360. Large carbon spot to the right of star one. Horizontal hit of jaw. TrueView available on PCGS CoinFacts.
  • PCGS MS65RD #85196500: As PCGS MS65RD #25258450. Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2015, Lot 3082 – $4,230. As PCGS MS65RD #81283517. Heritage Auctions, August 10, 2016, Lot 3048 – $3,290. Regraded. As PCGS MS65RD #37113453. GreatCollections, February 28, 2021, Lot 952663 – View. Regraded. Carbon spots and fingerprints on obverse.
  • PCGS MS65RD CAC #1166767: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, December 12, 2019, Lot 69 – $7,637.50.
  • PCGS MS65RD #36484047: Heritage Auctions, April 25, 2019, Lot 3034 – $2,640. Certification number no longer active. Carbon spot on denticles between star one and the date.
  • PCGS MS65RD #36607534: GreatCollections, January 13, 2019, Lot 661578 – View.
  • PCGS MS65RD #50009408: Heritage Auctions, September 2002, Lot 5096; Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2014, Lot 3895 – $4,112.50; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, December 14, 2017, Lot 1 – $3,525. Reholded. Certification number no longer active.
  • PCGS MS65RD #83809111: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, October 26, 2017 – $4,700.
  • PCGS MS65RD #83087879: Heritage Auctions, April 4, 2017, Lot 15654 – $4,700; Legend Rare Coin Auctions, September 26, 2019, Lot 1 – $2,937.50.
  • PCGS MS65RD #33037719: “The Elbert Henry Gary Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 6, 2016, Lot 3604 – $4,700. Discoloration about B of LIBERTY. Carbon spot between stars 12 and 13. Scattered carbon spots on the reverse, including one at 6 o’clock touching the denticles and between D and S.
  • PCGS MS65RD #5656175: “The Kimo Collection,” Heritage Auctions, July 10, 2014, Lot 3595 – $4,993.75.
  • PCGS MS65RD CAC #06650677: Bill Nagle, May 2010; Heritage Auctions, June 23, 2014, Lot 30009 – $16,450.
  • PCGS MS65RD #6593585: Heritage Auctions, October 18, 2012, Lot 3079 – $4,406.25.
  • NGC MS65RD #912474-001: Heritage Auctions, March 25, 2010, Lot 85 – $3,220; Heritage Auctions, July 12, 2012, Lot 3045 – $4,600.
  • PCGS MS65RD #4716665: Heritage Auctions, July 27, 2005, Lot 5076 – $4,025; Heritage Auctions, February 5, 2009, Lot 160 – $3,450; Heritage Auctions, July 9, 2009, Lot 58 – $4,312.50; Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2011, Lot 3114 – $3,220; GreatCollections, March 4, 2018, Lot 555012 – View. Distracting fingerprints on obverse.
  • PCGS MS65RD #7095603: Heritage Auctions, March 25, 2010, Lot 86 – $5,750. Rattler. Copper spot on the second S of States. Denticles weak on the obverse and reverse.
  • NGC MS65RD #957212-006: Howard’s Coin Shop, July 1973; Heritage Auctions, May 9, 2007, Lot 121 – $3,737.50; Heritage Auctions, March 25, 2010, Lot 84 – $3,450. FOXFIRE on insert. Two spots to the right of Liberty’s hair, one just above star 12.
  • PCGS MS65RD #3159332: Heritage Auctions, July 26, 2003, Lot 5141 – $5,060.
  • PCGS MS65RD #4823604: Heritage Auctions, March 2, 2000, Lot 3 – $3,451.15.

 

  • PCGS MS64 RD #25046129: This coin appeared on Cool Coins! Episode #14 (2013) above, where Dr. Eugene Bruder was offering the coin for $2,000. Brown splotch over diadem and hair. Certification number no longer active.

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1855 Braided Hair Half Cent Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1855
Denomination: Half Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 56,500
Alloy: Copper
Weight: 5.44 g
Diameter: 23.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
REV Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Quality: Business Strike

 

Sources

Bowers, Q. David. Lost and Found Coin Hoards and Treasures. 2nd Edition. Whitman Publishing, 2019. 38.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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