The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
On September 1, 1870, a large French army under the command of Marshal MacMahon tried desperately to relieve an allied force besieged in the fortress of Metz and thus save Paris from her enemies. During their northward march, the Prussian IV Corps, Royal Saxon XII Army Corps, and I Bavarian Corps harried the southern flank of MacMahon's army at Beaumont. Breech-loading field pieces deployed by Bavarian, Silesian, Hessian, and Saxon units then pinned the bulk of the French force against the Belgian frontier at Sedan and pounded them into submission. Among the 100,000 French prisoners taken by the Prussians was none other than the French Emperor Napoleon III. Two days later, another French Republic rose in Paris to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of the monarchy. Although it did not end the Franco-Prussian War immediately, the Battle of Sedan allowed the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to proclaim a crusade against the 'revolutionary contagion' that the new French Republic represented for all of Europe. This self-proclaimed crusade gained vital Russian and Austrian sympathy and paved the way for Bismarck's creation of the German Empire on January 1, 1871.
While the shots exchanged at the Battle of Sedan may not have been heard 'round the world, they certainly reverberated in the halls of the United States Mint. Following his unification of Germany, Bismarck reorganized the nation's currency and adopted a gold standard. On his orders, Germany dumped vast quantities of silver onto the international market. This had the deleterious effect of closing European markets to American silver. Mine owners and their political allies realized that one way to relieve America's growing backlog of silver was through increased domestic coinage. In addition to making Uncle Sam a constant buyer of his own silver, this proposal would also allow the federal government to replace the hated shinplasters of the Civil War with new dimes, quarters, and halves.
Despite noble intentions, the resulting Mint Act of February 12, 1873 failed to effect an immediate increase in half dollar production. In the intervening months between February, 1873 and the Mint Act of January 14, 1875, half dollar mintage figures remained at post-1861 levels. The 228,000 half dollars that the San Francisco Mint coined in 1873 with arrows at their dates fall into this ignominious category. Although often considered a 'type coin' by many who overlook any silver delivery that lacks a CC mintmark, the 1873-S is a scarce issue whose rarity in high grades equals that of the 1873-CC and 1874-CC.
Born in part out of the chaos of European warfare, many of the 1873-S Arrows halves perished in the equally dangerous world of the American frontier.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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