Coin Specifications

Category: Patterns & Trial Coins (1792-1863)
Mint: Philadelphia
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1839 J-96 50C PF obverse 1839 J-96 50C PF reverse
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Description & Analysis

Judd-96, Pollock-104, R.8.

Design. Sometimes called the Backward Head, this pattern features an obverse much like that found on the regular-issue 1839 gold eagles, with a rounded tip on the forward edge of the bust truncation and a pointed tip on the rear edge--but the entire head is facing backward from that on the eagle, right rather than left. Thirteen stars ring the rim, with date 1839 below. The reverse is from the regular-issue Seated Liberty die, Medium Letters, as seen on the 1840 half dollars. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.

Commentary. An experiment begun in 1838, the various half dollar patterns continued into 1839, but many of them were clearly restruck as numismatic delicacies or "trade bait" for the Mint Cabinet in the late 1850s. The original pieces struck conform to the weight standard of the Mint Act of January 18, 1837, at 206.25 grains of .900 fine silver (0.430 troy oz.; 0.387 oz. pure silver), while the restrikes conform to the lesser-weight requirements of the Mint Act of February 21, 1853, that is 192 grains (0.4 oz.; 0.36 oz. pure silver).

The original silver and copper half dollars from these dies are classified Judd-93 and 94, while the restrikes are classified Judd-95 and 96, respectively. makes a useful distinction between the two groups, calling the originals "essai" (a trial strike, from the French essayer, "to try") and the restrikes "fantasy pieces." Only three pieces of the Judd-96 are known, one of them in a museum collection. All of the various half dollar patterns of 1838 and 1839 are incredibly rare to unique--with the sole exceptions of the Judd-72 and 73 in silver--and all are monumentally important. These pieces represent a profound shift in design, from the older Capped Bust style to more-modern designs, and as such are significant previews of the future of U.S. silver coinage.

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


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Total Graded: 2
Low Grade: 66
Average Grade: 66
High Grade: 66

The chart showing 66 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 3/24/2020 1839 50C J-96 PF BN

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