HomeUS Coins1898 Barber Half Dollar Proof : A Collector's Guide

1898 Barber Half Dollar Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1898 Proof Barber Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1898 Proof Barber Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

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

In 1898, as was by then common practice for the United States Mint, Proof coins were struck in limited quantities and made available to collectors in multiple configurations. Higher mintages were reserved for minor coins (the cent and the nickel), and lower mintages were reserved for the gold issues (the quarter eagle, which was the most popularly collected gold denomination, got a slight bump). For the silver coinage–the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and the dollar–the Mint produced just 735 pieces. As struck, at least 30% have a Cameo or Deep/Ultra Cameo designation.

Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Remarking on these 735 coins, American numismatist Walter Breen wrote the following in his Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, 1792-1989 (1989):

It is now very seldom that one is offered that has not been cleaned.

This is a curious statement, since nearly 90 years had passed since the coin was struck when this remark was written, and one would assume that Breen had seen enough coins to make that observation. When looking at current certified population data, we see that CAC, NGC, and PCGS have combined to certify 649 examples of the 1898 Barber Half Dollar Proof. If coins with original surfaces were hard to find in 1989, then the same would have to hold today–except most of the 1898 Proof Half Dollars that have been certified earned numerical grades.

NGC and PCGS report a statistical mode of Proof-64 in their tables, with just over 200 coins graded below. Many of these are likely coins of the character that Breen referred to in his comment. Perhaps in today’s market, old cleanings of Proof coins are baked into the equation.

Top Population: PCGS PR68DCAM (3, 5/2024), NGC PF68+UC (1, 5/2024), and CAC PR68DCAM (12:1 stickered:graded, 5/2024).

The Bruce Scher coin was a top pop, pop one coin when offered by Heritage Auctions on February 24, 2005. Since that sale, PCGS has added just two coins to its PR68DCAM census.

  • PCGS PR68DCAM #40323724: “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part I,” Heritage Auctions, September 17, 2020, Lot 10082 – $18,000. Simpson novelty insert.
  • NGC PF68UCAM #3319343-012: Stack’s Bowers, August 11, 2016, Lot 3141 – $15,275; Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2020, Lot 3554 – $8,700. Black and white.
  • PCGS PR68DCAM CAC #21765095: “The Bruce Scher #1 All-Time PCGS Registry Set,” Heritage Auctions, February 24, 2005, Lot 4114 – $32,200. Bruce Scher on insert. Top pop, pop one when offered. “The Greensboro Collection, Part VI,” Heritage Auctions, October 29, 2015, Lot 3325 – $21,150. CAC added. Pop three when offered.
  • NGC PF68UCAM CAC #2037686-043: “Colonel” E.H.R. Green; Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman, for $12.50; “The Eric P. Newman Collection, Part II,” Heritage Auctions, November 15, 2013, Lot 33495 – $27,025. Newman novelty insert. Dark rim toning.
  • PCGS PR68DCAM #06725918: Heritage Auctions, April 29, 2010, Lot 2131 – $25,300; “The Jim O’Neal Collection of Proof Type Half Dollars,” Heritage Auctions, August 16, 2018, Lot 5157 – $19,200. Lightly toned.
  • NGC PF68UCAM #2516890-001: “The Slotkin Family Trust Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2011, Lot 5200 – $14,950.
  • NGC PF68UCAM #1909503-016: Heritage Auctions, May 10, 2007, Lot 2143 – $20,700.
  • PCGS PR67+DCAM CAC #25371961: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2014, Lot 5265 – $17,625. Gold hue throughout.
  • PCGS PR67DCAM CMQ #48029328: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4142 – $10,800.
  • PCGS PR67DCAM CAC #25065130: Heritage Auctions, February 7, 2013, Lot 3829 – $14,100.
  • NGC PF67UCAM CAC #1550960-001: “The Oliver Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2011, Lot 7222 – $13,800.
  • NGC PF67UCAM #3211299-002: Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2009, Lot 3911 – $12,650.
  • NGC PF67*UCAM #1899749-026: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2008, Lot 1695 – $12,650. Vivid rainbow rim toning on both sides.
  • NGC PF67UCAM #1938537-001: Heritage Auctions, April 6, 2006, Lot 751 – $8,625. Black and white.

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1898 Barber Half Dollar Proof Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1898
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 735
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 12.5 g
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Charles E. Barber
REV Designer: Charles E. Barber
Quality: Proof


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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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