1837 Half Dollar Struck in a Broad Collar
Posted on 5/14/2013
The late numismatic scholar Walter Breen wrote in his 1988 Encyclopedia of four different collar sizes being used for 1837 half dollars. These reportedly ranged in diameter from a low of 29.5 mm to a high of 31.6 mm. Examining half dollars of this date reveals that the visual differences typically are quite slight and may easily go unnoticed. Recently, however, NGC certified an 1837 half dollar having a diameter of 31.95 mm and a very odd appearance. In fact, it was initially thought to be a broad strike mint error, but the presence of edge reeding made this unlikely.
Further study led NGC to conclude that the reeding was most likely applied prior to striking, as was the practice for the lettered edge halves of 1836 and earlier. The planchet spread considerably from the lack of restraint by a close collar, and this caused the peripheral design elements of both sides to have a drawn appearance. Again, this is typical of many lettered edge half dollars coined 1836 and earlier. The weight of this piece is 13.30 grams, which falls within the normal tolerance for 1837-53 halves.
Since NGC now recognizes Graham-Reiver varieties for Capped Bust Reeded Edge Half Dollars under its VarietyPlus Service, the first step in interpreting this coin was to find which GR die marriage was used. It turned out to be GR-24, a fairly common variety which GR book author Dick Graham notes is sometimes found with this odd appearance. Since NGC had already seen quite a number of halves from this die marriage without encountering an oversize example, it is evident that the vast majority of 1837 GR-24 halves are of the normal, smaller diameter. Clearly, this piece came from an experimental process that failed to produce desirable coins and was quickly discarded.
NGC graded this intriguing coin MS 61, labeling it as GR-24 Broad Collar to distinguish it from GR-24 halves of more conventional diameter. Whether or not this sub-variety will attract a following outside of GR specialists remains to be seen.