Coin Specifications

Category: Patterns & Trial Coins (1792-1863)
Mint: Philadelphia
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1836 J-57 50C PF obverse 1836 J-57 50C PF reverse
Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions (
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Description & Analysis

Judd-57, Pollock-60, Low R.7 as Proof.

Design. The obverse features a modified Capped Bust design, with six stars to the left and seven stars to the right, and the date below. The reverse consists of a perched eagle with shield, clutching three arrows and an olive branch. The peripheral legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above and denomination 50 CENTS below. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

Commentary. Although the 1836 Capped Bust, Reeded Edge half dollars have been widely collected as patterns, most numismatists now believe the coins are regular issues. The variety is listed in Davis, Adams-Woodin, Taxay, Pollock, and Judd, but recent editions of the standard references include a caveat about the issue's disputed pattern status. The coins were struck on November 8, 1836, well in advance of the Act of January 18, 1837, which authorized the new weight standard for the denomination. This circumstance is probably the reason early researchers considered the coins to be patterns. Date of production notwithstanding, the fact that nearly all examples of this issue were released into circulation through regular commercial channels seems undeniable and decisive. Regardless of its official status, the issue continues to be collected by pattern specialists and Bust half dollar aficionados alike.

The year 1836 saw a watershed event in Mint operations. Steam power was introduced, and the first steam press began operation at 10:35 a.m. on March 23, 1836. The Capped Bust, Reeded Edge half dollars of 1836 were the first coins of this denomination to be minted with the new technology. Another innovation, the close collar, was also used on half dollars for the first time with this issue. The close collar introduced many improvements in coin production. It confined the planchet during striking operations, ensuring that all coins had uniform diameter. The coins were well centered, and sharpness of detail was much improved. The new technology was incompatible with the ornate lettered edge devices used in previous years, however. The edge lettering was damaged when the planchet tried to expand against the restraining collar during striking operations. It was found that a close collar could impart a reeded edge to the coins during striking and the coins could be easily ejected afterward. Technology thus mandated the change to the new reeded edge design.

It was originally intended to use the Seated Liberty design for the obverse of the new half dollar, to match the Gobrecht dollars that were minted for the first time in 1836. Unforeseen difficulties caused authorities to change their minds, and Christian Gobrecht settled for slightly altering the old John Reich designs. Some early catalogers refer to the variety by the engraver's name, rather than the modern Reeded Edge designation. In the Cohen collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 622, the coin is described as, "1836 Gobrecht head. Beautiful proof. Extremely rare in this condition." The lot was purchased by Richard B. Windsor for $12.50, a respectable sum at the time.

The entire mintage of 1836 Reeded Edge half dollars was accomplished on November 11, 1836. Mint records show that 1,200 business strikes and an unknown number of proofs were struck. The business strikes were released into circulation, with the result that few high grade specimens are currently available. Experts estimate that perhaps two dozen proof specimens were struck, with approximately half that number surviving today.

The small population of 1836 Reeded Edge proof half dollars is under intense pressure because of the low survival rate of high-quality business strikes. Collectors from several disciplines pursue the issue. Type collectors, Bust half dollar specialists, and pattern collectors all aspire to own one. Its infrequent appearance at auction underscores its rarity. In The Official Red Book Of Auction Records 1995-2003, Jeff Garrett and John Dannreuther only list six appearances of an 1836 Reeded Edge proof half dollar during that nine-year time frame.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

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Total Graded: 1
Low Grade: 64
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 64

The chart showing 64 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 10/8/2019 1836 J-57 50C PF Cameo
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Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/7/2009 NGC PF 65   Heritage Auctions 2009 January Orlando, FL FUN Auction #1121, 1121/Lot# 1509 $69,000.00
6/5/2012 PCGS PF 64   Heritage Auctions Monthly World Coin Auction Session(1), 231227/Lot# 62444 $94.00
10/23/2014 NGC PF 66   Heritage Auctions Weekly World and Ancient Coin Auction Session(1), 231444/Lot# 65313 $111.63
10/23/2014 NGC PF 65   Heritage Auctions Weekly World and Ancient Coin Auction Session(1), 231444/Lot# 65314 $94.00
12/18/2014 NGC PF 65   Heritage Auctions Weekly World and Ancient Coin Auction Session(1), 231452/Lot# 64321 $152.75

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