The 1839 proof No Drapery Seated Liberty half dollar is a celebrated 19th-century rarity and a one-year design type that will appeal to series specialists and advanced type collectors alike.
Walter Breen recognized three specimens in his 1977 Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, but his list contained an example in the Norweb Collection, and that famous gathering did not have a representative of this issue when it was sold in the late 1980s. PCGS population data list only two examples and estimate a survival of two to four pieces in all grades, while NGC has certified six specimens, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers. Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert estimated “less than six” different coins were extant in 1993, a figure that closely agrees with our roster, which identifies six individual pieces today. One of the coins known to us has been impounded in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris since 1858.
We are privileged to be able to offer an example of this rarity as a part of our current January 31-February 3 Long Beach Signature Auction. This coin has no traceable auction history before it appeared in a Stack’s sale in 1996. It may be the specimen included in a proof set from a European holding discovered by Marc Emory in 1981. It is an impressive PR62 specimen, with sharply detailed design elements and reflective fields that show attractive highlights of champagne-gold toning. A few minor hairlines are evident, accounting for the grade. The reverse shows the usual die crack through MERICA and HAL DOL that is seen on all examples of this issue.
Any appearance of an 1839 No Drapery Seated Liberty half dollar is a major numismatic event and we expect intense competition when this lot is called.