Coin Specifications

Category: Patterns & Trial Coins (1792-1863)
Mint: Philadelphia
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1838 J-80 50C PF obverse 1838 J-80 50C PF reverse

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Description & Analysis

Judd-80, Pollock-87, High R.7.

Design. The obverse design is a slightly modified Seated Liberty motif, with the rock larger, the stars spaced differently, and Liberty's drapery rearranged. The word LIBERTY is incused on the scroll. The date is in the exergue. The reverse features a "defiant" eagle, clutching an olive branch and six arrows, with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around and HALF DOL. below. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

Commentary. Experts agree Judd-80 is a restrike issue, coined long after 1838. Andrew Pollock states the issue was coined in 1858 or later, but allows for the possibility that some original strikings may exist.'s experts doubt that any originals exist and believe the reverse die was not even completed until the late 1860s or early 1870s. A. Loudon Snowden mentions finding a large group of dies and hubs on hand when he assumed the position of chief coiner. Per Snowden, "Among the number were several from which no pieces are known to have been struck. Many of the devices were beautiful in design and exquisite in execution. This was particularly the case with a dollar and half dollar hub by Gobrecht."

Snowden asserted that these items were destroyed in the spring of 1869, but the veracity of this statement is dubious. A hub trial of the eagle on the reverse of Judd-80 survives in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian. It is listed as Pollock-3058. Pollock states that the hub used to strike this trial still exists. It is fascinating to think the half dollar hub Snowden mentions might have been this very hub of the Judd-80 design. It would have been a simple matter to use such a hub to create dies for this beautiful pattern in 1869, just the time frame envisioned by for the completion of the die.

In support of the theory that Judd-80 had a late production date, the piece was completely unknown before 1875. The first auction appearance was in the Cohen Collection (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 420. Cogan's described the lot as, "1838 Half Dollar. Liberty seated. Rev. Flying Eagle, holding in its talons six arrows and an olive branch. Underneath, Half Dollar. This variety has never before been offered at auction. Only two or three are known to exist, rarer than either of the preceding. Beautiful proof." Dealer John W. Haseltine purchased the lot for $10.50. Haseltine seems to have had an affinity for this design. The first auction appearance of Judd-81, the same design in copper, occurred in his Coin Sale (Haseltine, 2/1877), lot 559. Perhaps Haseltine liked the coin he acquired from Cogan and used his influence at the Mint to get a few examples struck in copper. It is only speculation, but it would not be out of character for Haseltine and the Mint under Henry Linderman.

Whatever its origin, Judd-80 is a rare and beautiful coin. We believe only three or four pieces exist, nearly the same estimate Cogan made 133 years ago.

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: 3
Low Grade: 63
Average Grade: 64
High Grade: 65

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
2/5/2006 PCGS PF 62   Goldberg February 5-8, 2006 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 34/Lot# 797 $17,250.00
1/7/2009 NGC PF 65   Heritage Auctions 2009 January Orlando, FL FUN Auction #1121, 1121/Lot# 1519 $29,900.00
8/11/2010 NGC PF 63   Heritage Auctions 2010 August Boston, MA Signature & Platinum Night ANA Coin Auction #1143, 1143/Lot# 3700 $9,775.00
9/19/2010 NGC PF 64   Goldberg September 19-21, 2010 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 60/Lot# 2716 $21,850.00
8/12/2015 NGC PF 62   Heritage Auctions 2015 August 12 - 16 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago Session(2), 1223/Lot# 4568 $16,450.00

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