Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN), a rare coin dealership based in Portland, Oregon, was the buyer of a very rare 1838-O half dollar graded SP63 by PCGS and approved by CAC. Including a 20% buyer’s premium, the coin sold for $504,000 USD at the November 2019 Baltimore/Whitman Coin Expo conducted by Stack’s Bowers Auctions.
The New Orleans Mint opened in 1838 in order to provide silver and gold coins for the Southern economy. New Orleans was an economic powerhouse, and there was a dire need for coins to facilitate day-to-day transactions and larger-scale purchases. Half dollars were an especially important denomination for the new mint and striking the new design was a priority.
Only 20 half dollars dated 1838-O were produced and all were struck with special care. These coins were traditionally referred to as Branch Mint Proofs but are now called “Specimens” by PCGS. Very few Proofs of any year or denomination were made at this facility and the 1838-O half dollars are the most famous silver issue from this mint (which continued to strike coins until it was closed in 1909). Of the 20 struck, just nine are known today with at least one off the market in a museum and many of the others held by leading private collectors.
This specific coin is graded SP63 by PCGS and it is known as the Cox-Robison coin, having been sold in the R.E. Cox auction conducted by Stack’s in 1962 and the Ellis Robison auction conducted by Stack’s in 1982. It was earlier owned by the famous collector Col. H.E.R. Green, who owned no fewer than six(!) of these at one time.
It is interesting to note that this piece is fresh to the market, not having been offered for sale in over 35 years.
Winter purchased the coin for a New Orleans-based collector who specializes in Proof US coinage struck prior to 1840.
According to Winter:
“This is a coin we had been chasing for a long time. My client has always wanted an 1838-O half dollar and this is a culmination of the 30+ years we have worked together. We waited for the right coin and we feel we were able to purchase this beautiful example at a very favorable price.”
Since June 2005 there are 10 auction appearances for 1838-O half dollars, mostly in the PR63 to PR64 range. The two high-water marks for the issue are $734,375 for an example graded SP64 by PCGS and $763,750 for another coin graded SP64 by NGC; the two sales occurred in January 2014 and January 2013, respectively. The all-time record for an 1838-O half dollar graded SP63 was a coin that realized $632,500 in June 2005.
The 1838-O half dollar has long been recognized as a classic rarity in the pantheon of American Numismatics. Again, according to Winter:
“This is a coin which lacks controversy as it was made as a regular issue and not as a special concoction for collectors. It is from a popular, well-collected mint and it is a large-sized, aesthetically appealing issue. It is indisputably rare and it is very well-made since it was struck from carefully prepared planchets. To my way of thinking, it is curiously undervalued and given what other far less desirable American coins sell for.”
For more information on this coin and about Douglas Winter Numismatics, please visit the firm’s website at raregoldcoins.com. Douglas Winter can be reached by phone at (214) 675-9897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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