NGC Certifies Early Half Dollar Rarity
Posted by David W. Lange, NGC Research Director on 7/24/2013
This die marriage is rated R-6 , with perhaps 18-20 pieces known in all grades. The NGC coin is a problem-free example grading F-15, which places it solidly in the middle of the Condition Census (roster of top specimens) found within the current edition of Al Overton’s book Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836.
O-127 combines Overton’s obverse die 12 with his reverse die H and is the prime for this marriage, with no die crack visible on the obverse. O-127a, of which the NGC-certified coin is an example, displays a die crack from the rim through the second star to the left of LIBERTY. This is the more often seen die state, with most of the known specimens featuring the crack. The rarity of O-127 is attributable to the rapid failure of Obverse 12, which was not used in any other die combination. In contrast, the more durable Reverse H was subsequently used with two other obverse dies as O-110 and O-111, respectively.
It was his learning of another, newly discovered specimen of this rare variety that prompted the coin’s owner to submit it. In an article for John Reich Journal, the publication of The John Reich Collectors Society, W. David Perkins had written of a previously unattributed example being discovered by a dealer, and this story was also picked up by Coin World. It was the Coin World account that reminded owner Nate Sonnheim he had an example of O-127 tucked away which he’d owned for many years and had not been seen by the current generation of researchers. Examination by NGC confirmed that it was in fact the O-127a die state and that the coin was a problem-free F-15 with original surfaces.
The total population of this very rare variety certified by NGC is just four coins. The others include a single O-127 and two examples of O-127a, all three of these grading less than G-4. The importance of this attractive and highly collectable specimen thus cannot be understated. The owner has not revealed his plans for this rarity.