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PCGS Paris Office Discovers Condition Census US 1815/2 Half Dollar

By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
1815 /2 50c PCGS MS63. Images courtesy PCGS

1815/2 Half Dollar PCGS MS63. Images courtesy PCGS

The dream of an undiscovered numismatic rarity persists with dealers and collectors around the world. Such a find was recently made in a submission to the PCGS Europe office in Paris in the form of a rare date Capped Bust Half Dollar. Left forgotten in a coin collection for over 50 years, this coin just now came to light and is a new addition to the top-condition pieces for this date.

The 1815/2 Capped Bust Half Dollar has always been a rare date in the series. With a mintage of only 47,150, all were produced with the single die pair that features an overdate with the remains of a 2 under the 5 of the date, making every 1815 an 1815/2. This issue is the lowest mintage among circulation strikes in the Capped Bust Half Dollar series.

It is believed that striking of the 1815/2 Half Dollars occurred at the end of 1815 and the beginning of 1816, prior to the fire at the United States Mint in Philadelphia that brought a temporary end to the production of coinage there except for cents dated 1816. The entire mintage for the 1815/2 Half Dollar was turned over to the Treasurer on January 10, 1816.

With research by R.W. Julian, it is believed that the entire mintage of 1815/2 Half Dollars dollars may have been paid out to a single depositor, Jones Firth and Co., a firm that was very active in international trade. So, many of these coins may have ended up overseas in trade and likely later melted.

The 1815/2 Half Dollar has always been a desirable coin. And with a boom in United States numismatics following the end of Large Cents in 1857, date collectors for United States coinage realized quickly that 1815 Half Dollars were scarce and could fetch premiums over face value before the 1860s. As early as 1859, the American Numismatical Manual by Montroville W. Dickeson classified the 1815 Half Dollar as very rare. In 1941, B. Max Mehl wrote in the William Forrester Dunham sale catalog that he doubted if as many as six 1815s exist in Uncirculated condition.

Fast forward to today, with certification and research, we can trace the known surviving coinage of 1815/2 Half Dollars and the grades they have been given. Believed to be the finest example, the Kaufman coin, once a PCGS MS65+, now resides in a different grading company’s MS66+ holder. The second-finest known is the D. Brent Pogue piece, which sold in 2019 for $111,625 USD and is graded PCGS MS65. The Pogue coin is the piece that B. Max Mehl wrote about in 1941 and had also been owned by Reed Hawn. There are two graded PCGS MS64+, including the Louis E. Eliasberg coin once from the John H. Clapp Collection and the Eric P. Newman specimen that once resided in the Colonel E.H.R. Green Estate. The PCGS census shows an additional three examples in MS64 and four in MS63.

In summer 2020, the PCGS Europe office in Paris received a single-coin submission from London containing an 1815/2 Capped Bust Half Dollar. The coin, submitted for authentication and grading, was then transferred to the United States where it was deemed genuine but determined to be covered with a thick film of active PVC (polyvinyl chloride); if left on the surface of the coin, the PVC could damage it. Recognizing the rarity of the coin and wanting to protect the piece, PCGS reached out to the submitter, who agreed to allow PCGS Restoration to preserve the coin by removing the PVC and neutralizing the coin. Once the PVC was removed the coin graded MS63, placing it among one of the elite condition-censuses for that date.

It was then disclosed that the coin had once been in a coin collection that was forgotten in a cupboard in an English home. The father of the owner had passed away and the collection was left intact in storage there for over 50 years. It wasn’t until recently that the family decided to clean out the cupboard and rediscovered the coin collection that had been assembled from purchases made at antique shops and flea markets in England. The 1815/2 Half Dollar was the apparent highlight of the collection and, once discovered to hold value, was sent to PCGS for authentication. As a PCGS MS63, the coin has a value of $70,000 according to the PCGS CoinFacts price guide.

PCGS is honored to be able to preserve and protect a previously unknown condition-census rarity.

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