1834 Capped Bust Half Dollar PR65 NGC. O-104, Unique as a Proof.
Only a few proof 1834 Bust half dollars are known, mostly restrikes from the dies used to produce the Crushed Lettered Edge coins. In the catalog of the George “Buddy” Byers Collection (Stack’s, 10/2006), the cataloger enumerated these Overton varieties used to produce the Crushed Lettered Edge restrikes, of which at least 10 pieces survive in all: O-101, O-103, O-104, O-106, O-114, and O-122.
The cataloger also included five Overton varieties known for the 1834 proof half dollars, each unique original coins, that were not CLE restrikes. Those varieties include: O-101 (Large Date, Large Letters, ex: Floyd Starr), O-103 (Large Date, Large Letters; in the King of Siam set), O-104 (the present piece, from the Norweb Collection), O-106 (Large Date, Small Letters; the Byers coin), and O-114 (Small Date, Small Letters; Bowers and Merena, 8/1991, lot 2268). Each one of those unique proof original half dollars is much, much rarer than the 1834 Crushed Lettered Edge restrikes.
The present coin is one of those original pieces, unique as far as we can determine. The catalogers in the Norweb Collection sale described it in this way:
“1834 O-104. Large Date, Small Letters. Proof-64/65. A glittering gem specimen with full Proof surface on all areas, including within the shield stripes on the reverse. This piece is breathtakingly beautiful and is toned a delicate blend of muted rainbow colors, ranging from magenta at the center, to electric and gunmetal blue, to gold at the borders.
“Perhaps unique as a die variety; Walter Breen did not know of other examples, but he was aware of this one, as he participated in the sale of it to Mrs. Norweb. “Here is a superb gem coin, a half dollar for the ages.”
Technical Description: Large Date, Small Letters. The 4 in the date is tall and recut, with the 18 wider than 834. The 4 is higher. The Overton reference describes the date “with an open 3 and extra tall tapered 1” a half-millimeter from the drapery, “the closest of any large date 1834.” On the reverse the top of the C in the denomination is close to the olive stem. The I is centered left of the crossbar of the T. This die lacks the die lump normally seen on business strikes under TE, providing evidence that this proof was struck first. The thin left stand of the M is joined at its base to the center stand.
The coin realized $28,600 in the Norweb sale, a remarkably strong price for the time. We would add little to that glowing description–which is nonetheless completely accurate–except to say that the surfaces are little changed in 22-plus years, and to mention that the strike is virtually complete in all areas, save for trifling weakness on some peripheral obverse stars and the tops of 50 and C on the reverse. For the most advanced half dollar specialist, this coin could form the start of a marvelous adventure, trying to acquire as many different proof Overton varieties of the year as possible. Almost certainly the rarest single coin in this incredible set. Census (all varieties): 2 in 65, 1 finer (11/10).
Ex: Virgil Brand Collection; New Netherlands Coin Company (11/1954); Mrs. R. Henry Norweb, Jr.; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3107, which realized $28,600. (#6217)