HomeUS CoinsUS Coins - Offerings of Great Half Dollars Characterized The Year 2015

US Coins – Offerings of Great Half Dollars Characterized The Year 2015

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #311 …….

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ……..
In the history of coin collecting, 2015 will be remembered as a year when a large number of extraordinary, classic U.S. half dollars were auctioned. Indeed, it has been ‘the year of the half dollar.’ It is impossible to discuss all of the great halves that traded in 2015. So, I reflect upon some of the greatest that come to mind now and remark upon sets that were auctioned.

The Pogue Family assembled an incredible set of pre-1840 halves, probably the all-time best. The Pogue Flowing Hair and Draped Bust halves were auctioned, along with other types of coins, on May 19, 2015 by Stack’s-Bowers at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York. Many of the Reich Capped Bust halves from the Pogue Collection, those dating from 1807 to 1822, were auctioned in the Pogue II sale on Sept. 30th. As I covered the best of those dating from 1807 to 1812 and a prize 1822 in earlier discussions, I omit these here, with the note that some of the greatest Capped Bust halves were in the Pogue II sale.

The Gene Gardner Collection was auctioned in 2014 and 2015. Gene Gardner collected all classic U.S. half dollars and many of his halves were auctioned in 2015, especially in the Gardner III sale on May 12, 2015. (Please click on words in blue to access pertinent references, especially for information relating to the half dollars mentioned in passing.)

The Greensboro set of Barber halves, the second all-time greatest, was auctioned this year, by Heritage in August and October. I rank the all-time greatest sets in my recent preview of the sale of the Shireman set. Although Dr. Shireman’s Barber halves will not be auctioned until January, they were on display in 2015 and were very much ‘in the news.’ Between the Gardner, Greensboro and Shireman sets, collectors attending major coin events could view a large portion of condition census Barber halves, including many finest known pieces.

While Dr. Duckor assembled the all-time greatest set of Barber halves, which was auctioned in 2010, many of the Duckor pieces were acquired by “Greensboro,” Dr. Shireman or Gene Gardner. They returned to ‘the news’ in 2015.

Eric Lane’s set of Walking Liberty half dollars was the best collection of these to be auctioned in a long time. Perhaps it is the best that has been publicly seen since the showdown between the ‘High Desert’ and Forsythe sets at major conventions in 2012.

Doug Kaselitz Collection

In July, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned the Doug Kaselitz Collection, which contained many high quality, scarce half dollars. The Kaselitz 1806/5 Draped Bust half is one of many highly certified Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle halves to surface in 2015. The Kaselitz 1806/5 was earlier in the epic collections of Reed Hawn and William Atwater. It is PCGS graded as MS-66.

Charlie Browne “loved it, holy cow, what a coin.” Browne served four stints as a PCGS grader in different time periods, and has been a long-time instructor at ANA grading seminars.

The Kaselitz 1806/5 realized $193,875 on July 17, in Baltimore, an astonishing price. The Pryor-Kaselitz 1807 ‘Small Stars’ Capped Bust half has become famous, too. The James Bennett Pryor collection of half dollars is legendary. Bowers & Merena auctioned it in January 1996.

gr_50c_1807The Pryor-Kaselitz 1807 is PCGS graded MS-65+ and CAC approved. It sold for $129,250. It is more than very attractive with wonderful creamy tones throughout, along with balanced blue and green outer fields. The touches of russet hues on Miss Liberty’s face and hair are neat. It has the eye appeal of a 66 grade and the technical characteristics of a 64 grade, along with being very much original. Overall, its grade in the middle to high end of the 65 range.

Unrelated to Kaselitz, other famous half dollars that were earlier in the Pryor Collection surfaced in 2015. In the ANA Platinum Night event in August, the Garrett-Pryor 1806-‘Pointed 6’ half brought $182,125. It is mentioned in my review of that auction.

Kaselitz had many other classic U.S. halves that were PCGS graded as MS-65 or -66. A 1917 Walker is PCGS graded “MS-65+” and CAC approved. It is noteworthy for its originality, as such coins often appear dipped, blank white. The Kaselitz 1917 characterized by shades of russet, with medium gray and apricot blends. That 1917 sold for $1175.

A Kaselitz 1837 half is noteworthy for its originality as well. It has not been cleaned or dipped in decades, if ever. Though not the most attractive half dollar to be PCGS graded as MS-66, it scores very highly in the technical category. Moreover, this 1837 half has been CAC approved. Although I would like to conclude that the strong $38,187.50 result was due to the originality of this coin, it may be more indicative of the enormous success of the offering of the Doug Kaselitz Collection at a time when market prices overall for classic U.S. coins were trending slightly downward and were soon to slide further during the remainder of 2015.

Although the Kaselitz Collection is very significant, it did not have the overall importance or emotional impact of the Pogue Family Collection. The Pogue I sale was characterized by the all-time greatest offering of 18th century half dollars. The cultural leaders of the pack were the Hayes-Pogue 1794 and the Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797!

Pogue Halves

Justifiably, I devoted an entire article to the Hayes-Pogue 1794 half, which is clearly the finest known and a great coin for other reasons. It is mentioned again now because the theme here is that 2015 will be best remembered as a year during which great half dollars emerged.

gr_50c_1797The Hayes-Pogue 1794 brought $763,750 at the Pogue I sale on May 19, 2015. The Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797 realized $1,527,500 at that same event. As this coin was a main highlight of an article before the Pogue I sale and was discussed afterwards, it does not make sense review it again here. (Please click to read the earlier pieces.) An immediate point is that the Pogue Collection had the first and third finest known representatives of the rarest design type of U.S. silver coins, plus additional pieces of the same type.

Draped Bust, Small Eagle halves were minted for just two years. In all states of preservation, these are rare. With two gems, all three major varieties, and duplicates, the Pogue assemblage of Draped Bust, Small Eagle halves was almost unbelievable.

Also, a PCGS graded MS-64 1796, from the Gene Gardner Collection, was auctioned in May for $329,000. In any other year, that coin would have commanded a lot of attention. The offering of the Byron Reed 1797 at the CSNS auction likewise would have been greeted with much fanfare if the Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797 was not to be auctioned around a month later. The number and quality of 1796 and 1797 halves that were sold in 2015 is astonishing. The PCGS graded MS-64 ‘Byron Reed’ 1797 brought $493,500 in April.

Although the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle halves of the Pogue Collection were not of the same caliber as the 18th century halves in the same collection, these are rarer than most interested collectors believe them to be. The 1801 and the 1802 are the elusive keys to this short-lived series.

The PCGS graded MS-63 Pogue-“Thomas” 1801 is inferior to the NGC graded MS-64 Newman-Green 1801. Even so, it is certainly among the three finest known 1801 halves and is a neat coin overall. The Hayes 1801 has not been seen in a long time. If the Newman 1801 had not been offered in 2013, the Pogue-“Thomas” 1801 would have received much more attention. It is discussed at length in my roster of 1801 halves.

For the Pogue-“Thomas” 1801, the $129,250 result in May is curious. The same coin brought $184,000 when auctioned as part of the “Joseph Thomas” collection in April 2009.

Though not a rare date in the series of Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle halves, the 1803 – ‘Small 3’ is not common. The Pogue-Hawn 1803 was overshadowed by some of the more famous coins in the Pogue I sale. Reed Hawn formed a landmark set of half dollars that Stack’s (NY) auctioned in 1973. This is likely to be the finest known 1803-‘Small 3.’ It is a great coin for several reasons.

It has never been cleaned and probably was never dipped. The natural toning is even and very attractive. The brown-russet, gray and various green shades complement each other well. Indeed, the shades of green are wonderful.

This coin has the level of eye appeal that would be associated with a 65 grade. Several mint-caused imperfections and some minor, central contact marks on both sides, probably kept it from being graded MS-65. Even so, its grade is around the border between MS-64 and -65.

Reportedly, in January 2009, Stack’s auctioned this same 1803 for $195,500. At the Pogue I sale, it went for $188,000 to a collector from the Midwest.

Gardner Halves

Gene Gardner owned too many terrific half dollars to list here. Many of them were auctioned in 2014 rather than in 2015. His 1838-O was sold on May 12, 2015, as was the already mentioned PCGS graded MS-64 1796. The Eliasberg-Gardner 1838-O is NGC certified as Proof-64 and CAC approved.

gr_50c_48oAmong U.S. half dollars, only the 1853-O ‘No Arrows’ issue is clearly rarer than the 1838-O. The 1817/4 is in the same category of rarity as the 1838-O. The 1853-O ‘No Arrows’ half is not known to exist in grades above Very Fine. The PCGS graded VG-08, Howell 1853-O ‘No Arrows’ half brought $199,750 in August 2015.

Although some have wear, all 1838-O halves are Proofs or Specimen Strikings. These are the first half dollars struck at a U.S. Mint outside of Philadelphia. Fewer than 13 have been documented, and the Eliasberg piece is among the three finest. It brought $646,250 in May.

Though not nearly as rare as an 1838-O, the Gardner, NGC graded MS-65 1848-O [above] is particularly memorable. Although the toning patterns are unusual, as are the red and mustard colors, I find the toning to be natural. Evidently, experts at CAC did as well, as it is the only certified “MS-65” 1848-O half that is CAC approved.

The only 1848-O that is certified as MS-66 is also CAC approved. Gene Gardner owned that one, too.

In June 2014, the NGC graded MS-66 1848-O realized $25,850. In October 2015, the NGC graded MS-65 1848-O realized $32,900! Both are CAC approved and both were from the same collection. Moreover, market levels for these were certainly not higher in October 2015 than they were in June 2014. Indeed, the opposite is true; prices for classic U.S. coins have been falling since August 2015. It is interesting that the “65” grade 1848-O realized significantly more than the “66” grade 1848-O, especially since there are no other 1848-O halves that have been certified as MS-66!

The 1862 is scarce, though not rare overall. Few, however, merit a grade of MS-66. The Gardner 1862, which sold in May 2015, is PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved. It scores very high in the category of originality, is very attractive and is an excellent coin overall. The price realized on May 12, 2015, $18,800, is well above levels in some price guides. I wonder if a more appealing 1862 half survives.

The Gardner 1865-S is almost certainly the finest known. It is PCGS graded as MS-65 and CAC approved. Although dipped decades ago, it naturally retoned in a neat manner. Furthermore, it has hardly any imperfections. In August 2011, it was auctioned for $92,000. In May 2015, it brought less than half as much, $42,300!

Greensboro-Gardner 1906-O

The Greensboro-Gardner 1906-O was auctioned twice in 2015. In May, it brought $18,800. In August, it brought $17,037.50. Although it is PCGS graded MS-67 and CAC approved, it has been overshadowed by the PCGS graded “MS-67+,” Duckor-Emery-Nichols 1906-O.

gr_50c_1906Even so, the Greensboro-Gardner 1906-O is really cool. It is not as photogenic as some other superb Barber halves. It really has to be seen in actuality to be recognized as being more than very attractive and virtually flawless, just an amazing coin.

The Hugon-Greensboro 1892 is very colorful and is a certification rarity. It is the only 1892 half that is PCGS graded as MS-68 and it is CAC approved. There is an NGC graded MS-68 1892, which has not been CAC approved.

At the Hugon sale on Jan. 12, 2005, this coin brought $34,500. In February 2006, it was auctioned for $32,200. In a FUN Platinum Night in January 2007, it sold for less, $31,625.

On October 29, 2015, it went for $39,950. It thus may be worth more than twice as much as a “MS-67” grade 1892, which, in turn, is worth four to five times as much as a MS-66 grade 1892 half. It is one of the most common dates in the series of Barber halves.

Gardner & Greensboro 1915-D Halves

The 1915-D is not rare. Even finding a gem quality 1915-D is not difficult. These are condition rarities in MS-66 grade, however, and it is debatable as to whether a true MS-67 grade 1915-D exists. In 2001, Heritage twice auctioned the lone, NGC graded MS-67 1915-D, for less than $5000 each time. I do not recollect ever seeing it.

In 2015, two appealing, PCGS graded MS-66 1915-D halves were auctioned. Each has a CAC sticker. The Gardner piece exudes originality and is superior to others that have been PCGS or NGC graded as MS-66. It is more than very attractive and is nearly flawless. In May, it brought $4465.

The Greensboro-Friend 1915-D is not quite as impressive. There are a few contact marks on the face and near the mintmark. It, too, though, has really attractive natural toning. It brought a little less than the Gardner 1915-D, $3,996.18 on October 29, 2015 in New York.

These are both select coins for connoisseurs of Barber halves, much less expensive than other condition rarities in the series. For example, the Duckor-Gardner 1915 Philadelphia Mint half is PCGS graded as MS-66+ and realized $42,300 in the Gardner III sale in May.

It is true that Philadelphia Mint business strikes tend to be much harder to find in gem grades than Denver Mint Barber halves of the same year. For the connoisseur with a limited budget, however, 1915-D coins may be good values.

Curiously, in January, two more 1915-D halves will be offered, each of which is PCGS graded as “MS-66+” and is CAC approved. The Shireman and Norweb-Price-Duckor 1915-D halves each score very highly in the technical category, though are not as colorful as the just mentioned Gardner and Greensboro 1915-D half dollars.

gr_50c_laneEric Lane 1923-S

In the gem grade range, 65 and higher, the 1923-S is a condition rarity. The Lane 1923-S might not be the finest known. Even so, as a majority of PCGS or NGC graded MS-65 to -67 grade Walkers have a dipped-white appearance, the neat natural toning and crisp underlying luster on this coin are especially noteworthy. It is PCGS graded MS-66 and CAC approved.

This coin realized $25,850 twice in less than five months. In August, Heritage auctioned Lane’s set in Rosemont, Illinois. On Dec. 17, Legend auctioned this coin in Las Vegas. The russet-gray and orange-russet tones are eye-catching, as are the touches of yellow at the periphery. This Walker is much more memorable than some others that are worth far more. The Lane 1923-S is a coin with considerable personality.


Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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  1. Regarding the 1923-S half dollar, what about the deep gash that’s visible just above Liberty’s knee? Given its prominent location, the coin is definitely not worthy of the grade.


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