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The Marvelous Pogue Family Coin Collection, Part 13: Probable Finest Known ‘Broken 3’ 1823 Capped Bust Half Dollar

1823 Capped Bust Half Dollar.
Courtesy Stack’s Bowers Galleries
LOT 3047 1823 Capped Bust Half Dollar  Broken 3  Mint State-65+ (PCGS)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #317

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ……
On Tuesday, February 9, Stack’s Bowers, in cooperation with Sotheby’s, will conduct the third in a series of auctions of the Pogue Family Coin Collection, at Sotheby’s headquarters on York Ave., between East 71st and 72nd streets, in Manhattan. Starting on February 6, coins will be on exhibit there. Among the more than 150 coins to be sold, there is a PCGS-graded ‘MS-65+’ 1823 Capped Bust Half dollar, which is likely to be the finest known of the curious ‘Broken 3’ variety. This unusual numeral generally commands attention.

Two weeks ago, I covered the Garrett-Pogue 1793 Chain cent, which could bring millions. This 1823 half dollar is not nearly as costly, is especially attractive, and is one of many appealing silver coins in this auction. Capped Bust halves are the most avidly collected of all early (pre-1840) types of U.S. coins. A true gem of the ‘Broken 3’ variety is extremely newsworthy and will be discussed by collectors throughout the nation.

Most Reich “Lettered Edge” Capped Bust half dollars are much more affordable than Pogue Collection gems. With just a few dates missing, a set may be assembled for less than $500 per coin.

The Pogue Collection is not representative of coin collections in general. It is an amazing, special case.

Early Half Dollars in the Pogue Collection

In the Pogue I sale on May 19, 2015, 18th-century U.S. half dollars in the Pogue Collection were sold, by far the all-time greatest group of those! The finest-known 1794 half was a major highlight. The Rogers-Foxfire-Pogue 1797 is the finest known of the entire Draped Bust, Small Eagle design type. Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle halves were then auctioned as well, though these were a little disappointing.

In the Pogue II sale, on Sept. 30, 2015, Capped Bust half dollars dating from 1807 to 1822 were auctioned. Many of the pieces minted from 1807 to 1812 were phenomenal. I drew attention to a super price for an 1822. Indeed, the $88,125 result for a PCGS graded MS-66 1822 half dollar was the strongest price for a silver coin in the Pogue II sale! In the Pogue III sale on Tuesday, half dollars dating from 1823 to 1836 will be offered.

Although the Capped Bust halves of the type that were minted from 1807 to 1836 are correctly referred to as ‘Lettered Edge’ halves, as they do not have plain or reeded edges, it is best to call these Reich Capped Bust half dollars, as the designer is John Reich. Although the Capped Bust halves of the type dating from 1836 to 1839 each have a reeded edge, it is logical to call these Gobrecht Capped Bust halves, as they are mostly the result of work by Christian Gobrecht and appear much different from the Capped Bust halves of 1807 to 1836. Edge elements are less important than other differences.

The Gobrecht Capped Bust halves of the Pogue Collection will probably be auctioned in May 2016. The presently discussed ‘Broken 3’ 1823 is one of many excellent Reich Capped Bust halves that will ‘go on the block’ next week.

Collecting Bust Half Dollars

Although collecting ‘by date’ is defined in essence as collecting ‘by year’ in registry sets, and in some collections built during the 19th century, I have been researching coin collecting for more than 25 years and I have never met anyone who collects a series ‘by year,’ while ignoring all major varieties and mintmarks. Importantly, such registry sets are generally pared from more comprehensive sets by the same respective collectors, who define collecting ‘by date’ as an activity beyond collecting ‘by year.’ As far as I know, no one assumes that there is necessarily only one date for each year of a design type.

The word ‘date’ has multiple meanings in coin collecting, which are inter-related. As the ‘date’ refers to the numerals in the year, a readily apparent difference in numerals–such as a blatant ‘doubled date,’ an obviously large or small date, or an overdate–often constitutes an additional date of the same year. The best way to learn about multiple dates of the same year for coins of the same design type is to focus on distinctions that are readily visible and very noticeable, without magnification.

For many collectors, completing a set ‘by date’ involves including major varieties that are itemized in standard price guides, like those published by PCGS, NGC and Numismedia. Whether a variety has the status of a distinct date, however, relates more to tradition than to publications. There are obscure varieties listed in some standard price guides that few, if any, collectors would collect as distinct dates. The 1823 ‘Broken 3’ is a major variety, which is often collected as a distinct date.

The Broken ‘3’!

For 1823 half dollars, the ‘Broken 3,’ the ‘Patched 3’ and the issue with normal numerals are often thought of as three different dates of the same year. The ‘Ugly 3’ 1823 is not as widely accepted, though is sometimes regarded as a ‘date’ as well.

1823 broken 3
Courtesy Stack’s Bowers Galleries

The ‘Broken 3’ name refers to the fact that the top half of the 3 is mis-aligned with the bottom half and leans to the right. This numeral seems to be disjointed. It appear as if much of the area where the top of the 3 meets the bottom of the 3 had ‘broken off’ the numeral punch before it was hammered into the obverse (front) die that was used to produce ‘Broken 3’ 1823 halves. The precise reasons as to why the top portion of a numeral ‘3’ is mis-aligned with the bottom portion of the same numeral are not now known, perhaps a mystery that will never be solved.

“Back in the 1950s,” Sheridan Downey recollects, “some reference books and coin holders referred to the ‘Broken 3’ as an 1823/2. Al Overton fixed that for good, with the publication of the first edition of his reference in 1967.”

The pair of dies that is referenced as Overton-101 was used to produce ‘Broken 3’ and some ‘Patched 3’ 1823 halves. “When mint officials or workers noticed the disjointed and peculiar alignment of the top and bottom portions of the 3, an engraver tried to fix things by tooling the working die,” Downey adds, in response to my inquiry.

1823 patched 3
Courtesy Stack’s Bowers Galleries

“An engraver created the ‘Patched 3’variety, a later die state of the O-101 die pair. Overton labeled it O-101A,” Downey continues. “So, all O-101 half dollars are ‘Broken 3’ halves and all O-101A 1823s are ‘Patched 3’s. The obverse die outlived the reverse and was then married to a new reverse. The ‘Patched 3’ obverse thus appears on two die pairs, O-101A and O-102,” Sheridan explains. For decades, Downey has been the leading specialist in die varieties of Capped Bust half dollars.

There are 1823 ‘Patched 3’ and ‘Ugly 3’ varieties in the Pogue Collection, too. The ‘Patched 3’ seems to display additional metal where the top half and the bottom half of this numeral meet and on other parts of the ‘3.’ The ‘Ugly 3’ is mis-shaped, though not to a startling extent. Improper punching of the numeral ‘3’ into the respective dies may have caused or contributed to all three of these unusual numeral ‘3’ varieties.

Most interested collectors regard the ‘Broken 3’ as having the status of a distinct ‘date.’ After all, a numeral in the ‘date’ is very noticeably different and certainly unusual. Although it could be fairly argued that it should not have the status of a distinct ‘date,’ the ‘Broken 3’ variety is much more apparent and distinctive than the ‘with bars’ variety of 1809 halves that each include a few irregular bar devices on the edge in addition to the typical lettering.

Collections of bust halves often include multiple 1809 halves in their respective sets, each 1809 with different and subtle edge characteristics. A ‘Broken 3’ 1823 is certainly more entertaining than an 1809 half with a few crude, hardly noticeable bars or symbols on the edge. Yet, multiple edge varieties of 1809 halves are often found in sets that were assembled ‘by date’ and are frequently itemized in general price guides.

The Pogue ‘Broken 3’

Although this Pogue 1823 half is PCGS graded as “MS-65+,” it was earlier NGC certified as “MS-66*,” with the “star” that NGC graders award to coins that they maintain have superior eye appeal. Furthermore, it was CAC-approved at the MS-66 level. I saw it in January 2012 and again on February 1, 2016. It has not changed in the interim.

I am surprised that this coin was downgraded. Some people may be concerned that I sometimes note coins that may be overgraded by grading services, in terms of how most relevant experts grade coins. Here is a coin that is undergraded.

This 1823 has the kind of toning that comes from storage in ‘Wayte Raymond’ National coin holders that were widely used during the middle of the 20th century. There is near-unanimous agreement among experts that toning from such albums is natural. In the more than 25 years that I have been writing about classic U.S. coins, I have never heard one expert, nor even an intermediate-level grader, refer to such toning as artificial.

On this coin, the shades and textures of blue, green-blue, orange-russet and russet are generally regarded as natural. Very similar colors on other coins may be artificial. The attractiveness of the toning on this coin is being emphasized here.

The true red and orange-russet colors in the obverse outer fields and periphery are particularly memorable. Most of the stars and the numerals of the year are tinted and/or surrounded by blue and red tones.

Mellow orange-russet is mixed with predominant medium gray tones in the obverse inner fields. Miss Liberty seems to be outlined by orange-russet tones. Miss Liberty’s cap is reddish. Some of the feathers on the eagle on the reverse are similarly reddish.

There is much orange-russet and red in the reverse inner fields, tones that are mixed with gray and green hues. The orange-russet peripheral tones on the reverse are exceptionally even. There are pleasing blue tints here and there on both sides. The toning overall is well balanced.

Although this is not the brightest coin, it has the eye appeal that would be associated with a 66+ or 67-minus grade coin. This coin exhibits cartwheel luster on both sides, which is animated, even underneath considerable toning.

Is it perfect? No, there are faint hairlines here and there, which only an expert would notice. Multiple contact marks on Miss Liberty’s face and neck are very small, though discernible under five-times magnification. For a half dollar, microscopic contact marks are not very consequential, though there are more than a few of them on this coin.

When Heritage auctioned this same 1823 ‘Broken 3,’ it was in the already mentioned NGC holder with a “MS-66*” certification. In January 2012, it brought $51,750, which was then a strong price. Although market levels for rare coins overall have dropped since August 2015, markets for Capped Bust halves have not fallen to the extent that markets for classic U.S. coins in general have fallen. A fair retail value for this coin now would be at least $38,500, perhaps much more.

I hope that the leading bidders in January 2012 were attaching a premium to this coin because it scores very highly in the category of originality. Under five-times magnification, there is no evidence of it ever having been cleaned, doctored or dipped. I also hope that bidders next week will take this point into consideration as well.

Pogue ‘Patched 3’ 1823s

Sheridan Downey already mentioned that the 1823 O101A variety is a ‘Patched 3’ 1823 and was created with a later state of the obverse die that struck 1823 ‘Broken 3’ halves, after modifications. There are two such O-101A halves in the Pogue III sale.

Stack's Bowers Pogue 1823 50 gr patched obv
Courtesy Stack’s Bowers Galleries
Lot # 3048 1823 Capped Bust Half Dollar Patched 3. Mint State-65+ (PCGS)

The first ‘Patched 3’ in the Pogue Collection is PCGS graded as MS-65+. This is another great coin. Though it probably was lightly dipped decades ago, it scores well in the category of originality. The toning is natural; the green and orange-russet shades are really neat. The mottled red-russet tones in the obverse and reverse inner fields are pleasing.

This coin is even technically stronger than the just mentioned Pogue ‘Broken 3.’ One light line on the face is apparent to an expert, though is hardly noticeable to anyone who is not grading the coin. Also, this coin has been CAC approved.

The Pogues have a second ‘Patched 3’ of the same O-101A variety, a coin that was earlier in the collection of Louis Eliasberg. It is PCGS graded as MS-65 and is CAC approved. Though not quite as impressive as the just mentioned Pogue ‘Patched 3,’ this coin is desirable as well. The Pogue ‘Ugly 3’ 1823 (O-110A) is also PCGS graded MS-65 and CAC approved.

These unusual varieties of 1823 halves are part of an astonishing run of Capped Bust halves in the Pogue III sale. It will be fun to observe and interpret auction results for these and other great coins that will be sold February 9.

©2016 Greg Reynolds

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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