By Gerry Fortin Rare Coins ……
The 1823 Bust half dollar in EF is priced at $250 (USD) in the Whitman Guide Book, while the Coin Dealer Newsletter CAC Price Guide values EF45 CAC examples at $370. Thus, the recent sale of a PCGS EF45 CAC example at $2,100 drew significant attention.
Sold in Gerry Fortin Rare Coins (GFRC) April 3 auction sale of the Burrowing Owl Collection, this piece saw highly spirited bidding throughout the seven-day online auction. Certain varieties of the 1823 Bust half are more desired in the current market, including the Broken 3 (O-101), the Patched 3 (O-101a, O-102), and the Ugly 3 (O-110a). Two other die marriages, the O-109 and O-113, are additionally prized by collectors forming extensive die marriage collections. Auction records available online note several sales of the O-109 variety in the $2,000-$4,000 range, for EF pieces. The piece sold in the Fortin sale, O-106a, however, is a common variety for the date.
The Burrowing Owl 1823 O-106a 50c was described in part:
“The stars and legend of this eye-popping example exhibit a thick band of electric blue, surrounding silver and gold centers that are neatly framed by russet patina. The eye appeal is off the charts and exceeds that of a substantially higher graded untoned example.”
With no premium for the variety or date, the strong price realized can only be explained by the exceptionally appealing toning of this particular example. Toning premiums are well-known in the marketplace and are more typically associated with Morgan dollars, coins that, by and large, remained in storage for many years and developed varied toning patterns, some quite spectacular. Apart from the ownership of the recent consignor, this Bust half example comes with no extensive pedigree, and it is impossible to say how the toning developed, the most likely case being long-term storage in an album or paper envelope. Similar toning on both sides suggests an envelope may be more likely.
Regardless of how the rich color developed on this piece, the auction result clearly demonstrates that collectors place strong value on eye appeal. Collector taste runs in cycles, with earlier generations variously placing more value on absolute rarity, historicity, or the artistic appeal of certain numismatic objects. With the emergence of CAC, today’s market tends to value originality and aesthetic appeal more highly, and the sale of this otherwise ordinary 1823 half dollar is a case in point. Although not a “top pop” or especially rare coin, the iridescent toning clearly attracted exceptionally strong bidder attention.
“The consignor made a healthy profit on this piece but also paid strong money to make the original purchase,” Gerry Fortin said. “The best coins always demand a premium, and pieces like this rarely slip through the cracks. With accurate color images presented on the auction website, bidders understood exactly what they were bidding for and strongly competed for this special coin.”
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About Gerry Fortin
Gerry Fortin is a well-known researcher of Liberty Seated Dime die varieties. His die variety guide entitled, The Definitive Resource for Liberty Seated Dime Variety Collectors is available at www.seatedimevarieties.com and is the numismatic industry standard for Liberty Seated Dime die variety attributions.