By James McCartney – Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
The Sutton Court Collection of Early Half Dollars Varieties is one of the most exciting cabinets of this specialty that we have handled in recent years. Assembled by Overton number with a focus on the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle type, specialists will delight at the array of Rarity-5 and Rarity-6 examples, including many Condition Census and finest known specimens. The Sutton Court Collection was formed in the 1980s through auction purchases and direct acquisitions from Stack’s and other respected firms. The treasures of this collection have been off the market for over three decades.
Among the newly uncovered treasures to be featured in our March 2018 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo is an incredible AU-58 (NGC) example of the 1795 O-126a Small Head variety that will be of great interest to half dollar specialists. The strike is above average for this die marriage despite the usual softness at center, and offers sharp details to Liberty’s profile and a healthy trace of feathers on the eagle’s breast. Delicate champagne iridescence is noted across the silvery surfaces of both sides. Though lightly cleaned long ago, the surfaces have nicely recovered and the eye appeal is pleasant. A thatching of adjustment marks is present across much of the obverse, most apparent at the lower border and at Liberty’s temple. A thin planchet fissure gives the impression of a scar across Liberty’s cheek and will allow for identification of this piece through future cabinets.
Three distinct die marriages comprise the 1795 Small Head subtype that displays a smaller bust of Liberty: O-126(a), O-127(a), and O-128. The present piece is the second finest known of the O-126a variety, behind only the MS-62 (PCGS) Lord St. Oswald-Pogue specimen. A handful of AU-55 examples are known, including the Queller specimen (AU-55 Details ANACS). The roster then quickly falls to VF and more heavily worn examples. The Sutton Court coin is the only AU example listed in the NGC Census for the O-126a variety and there are none finer.
The exceptional preservation of this piece is matched by a provenance that extends back to at least 1929, when it was the plate coin for the 1795 obverse 15 in Martin L. Beistle’s A Register of Half Dollar Die Varieties. Many of the plate coins in this reference, including this example, were borrowed from a friend of the author, Colonel E.H.R. Green, whose collection allowed Beistle to “make [his] work more complete than otherwise.”
Upon Green’s death, the coin was purchased along with the rest of his estate by Burdette G. Johnson in a partnership with Eric P. Newman. Johnson then sold it to F.C.C. Boyd in August of 1942 for $40 with a grade of “Unc.”
It next was offered in Numismatic Gallery’s sale of Boyd’s cabinet, the World’s Greatest Collection, Part III, in April 1945 with a grade of Very Fine. Almost 20 years later, it appeared in the New Netherlands sale of December 1963, though this time cataloged as “About Uncirculated” and “apparently the finest known specimen for this very rare type!”
It was purchased privately from Stack’s by the present consignor nearly 35 years ago, and it may be another generation before specialists will have an opportunity to acquire this rare and historic specimen.
This AU-58 (NGC) 1795 O-126a Small Head example will accompany many other significant half dollar rarities in our March 2018 Baltimore auction. These include a MS-62 (PCGS) 1795 O-116, a scarce 1801 O-102 in AU-58+ (NGC), the MS-62 (PCGS) ex Clarke and the MS-61 (NGC) ex Miles specimens of the 1805 O-112 dies, and handsome examples of the 1806 O-110 and O-124 E/A in States varieties, each considered to be Rarity-6.
The emergence of the Sutton Court Collection represents a significant opportunity for early half dollar enthusiasts, so contact us for more information about this exciting collection. Call 1-800-458-4646 or email Info@StacksBowers.com to speak with a representative today. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our exciting auctions via your Android or Apple device.