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.
The American Revolution, while establishing our de facto independence from Great Britain, failed to secure our economic autonomy from the British Empire. This situation was mildly tolerable to the United States until Napoleon Bonaparte toppled one European nation after another during the opening decade of the 19th century. The heightened tension between England and the European continent spilled over to sour Britain's relationship with her former North American colony. As more and more American ships fell victim to the Royal Navy's blockade of the European mainland and President Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 failed to reverse the declining economic plight of our merchants, Americans were left with no other choice but to demand immediate, decisive action. Led by the War Hawks in Congress, the United States finally declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812.
Instead of improving America's economic standing overnight, however, the war effort sent matters from bad to worse. As the American public resorted to the strict use of bullion in their daily transactions, paper money fell into disuse and, not surprisingly, gold and silver coins began to disappear from circulation in ever growing numbers. The British invasion and destruction of Washington, D.C. in 1814 only exacerbated the problem and widespread hoarding became the norm. The half dollar, the staple denomination of the United States banking system since President Thomas Jefferson suspended coinage of the silver dollar in 1803, was one of the hardest hit by this alarming turn of events. Since the Philadelphia Mint received no silver bullion deposits throughout most of 1815, its half dollar presses sat idle. Meanwhile, stunning American military victories, combined with Britain's mounting share of the war effort in Europe, resulted in the Treaty of Ghent. Signed on December 24, 1814, this treaty ended the War of 1812 and bound both the United States and Great Britain to accept the status quo ante. As communications in the early 19th century were not what they are today, the news of peace failed to reach North America before U. S. and British forces clashed at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. Despite Andrew Jackson's stunning success in the battle and the crowning achievement of peace that followed in its wake, the economic situation in the United States returned to normal very slowly. It would take until the end of the year before citizens deposited sufficient quantities of silver bullion to enable the Philadelphia Mint to resume half dollar coinage. The Mint's staff hurriedly grabbed a pair of old 1812 dies, punched a 5 over the 2, and coined 47,150 1815 half dollars. This meager mintage proved to be the lowest of the entire Capped Bust half dollar series.
Born out of the turmoil of the War of 1812, this low mintage half dollar actually came within a hair's breath of being preserved by a future war. During the Civil War, the New Harmony Society of Economy, Pennsylvania buried vast quantities of Capped Bust half dollars to prevent them from falling into the hands of marauding rebel cavalry. Discovered in 1878, the Economite Hoard yielded 111,356 Capped Bust half dollars, a total that included at least a hundred examples of the elusive 1815. The discovery, however, proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for modern numismatists as the coins were harshly scrubbed and placed into circulation! Today, while sliders and impaired pieces exist in sufficient enough quantities to satisfy less fickle numismatists, original, high grade Mint State survivors are rare and always in great demand.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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