Small date 1834 silver US half dollar minted at Philadelphia 183 years ago. There were several different prepared dies and both large and small dates occur for this particular year (see R.S. Yeoman’s Official Redbook 2015, page 199 for information). The coin also has small stars and impressed vertical edge lettering stating ‘FIFTY CENTS O/F A DOLLAR’ as a result of a Castaining machine processing error that overlapped the edge letters and also produced weaker rim beading along part of the outer rim edge not fully raised by the castaining process (these errors are described in more details below). The size or diameter of this half dollar is about 2 mm larger across than all half dollars minted after 1835. And so as a result, this half dollar is also heavier than all half dollars minted since 1835, and by 1964, all subsequent half dollars are about 2 grams lighter than pre-1836 half dollars.
Many early US silver half dollar exhibits minor differences in the strength of the strike between the obverse and reverse. The half dollar listed here has stronger details on its reverse suggesting that the two dies were not perfectly aligned, or the planchet was not perfectly uniform, or a combination of both factors. Furthermore, some strength variation is caused by striking this coin without using a collar to restrain it. This was intentionally done in order to retain the impressed lettering along the vertical edge of the coin, and these issues are discussed again further below.
This US silver half dollar is in excellent shape. Its condition varies, in my opinion from Very Fine plus (VF+) to Extremely Fine plus (XF+) based on the strength of the strike and minor differences in wear on the Obverse versus Reverse (see all Photos). The Obverse exhibits minor wear on the highest areas, such as above the eye, over the ear, and on the hair curl above the clasp. The Reverse exhibits even less wear that is restricted to the very top edge of the folded wings, the centers of the arrowheads, and the middle section of some leaves (see Photos). The thin fine lines creating the divisions within the Shield on the reverse are perfect and exhibit no wear. Similarly, the Eagle’s talon, eye lid, and nostril are fully visible and the arrow shafts extend out through the center of each arrowhead with just the hint of wear (see all Photos). Consequently, the Reverse, in my opinion, qualifies for a strong Extremely Fine to Extremely Fine plus (XF to XF+; some might even say AU- but this may be pushing it) while the Obverse rates slightly lower, such as either Extremely Fine minus (XF-) or Very Fine plus, plus (VF++) due to its slightly weaker strike. As for other considerations, this coin has no deep scratches or significant bag marks, and the only other declaration to note is a minor rim edge ding located at about the 10 o’clock position that reaches the obverse rim edge but does not extend through to the reverse rim edge (see all Photos). As an aside, my condition assessments are typically conservation and are based on more than five decades of collecting coins.
The last Photo shows the three major types of US half dollars minted between 1807 and 1915 and I hope to list the other two examples in the future for those who might appreciate a partial type set for US Half Dollars (the other half dollars in the last photo are not for sale at this time). The only coin available for purchase here in this listing is the 1834 half dollar shown in the first 8 photos. The last Photo, although, helps illustrate that the 1834 half dollar is visibly larger than its post-1835 cousins as noted above (the other two halves in Photo 9 are an 1845 O Seated Liberty and an 1892 Barber, and neither one is for sale here). And as for provenance history, this early US half dollar has had just one owner for the last 48 years and has been kept in a flip-style coin holder ever since its original purchase until it taken out to be Photographed for this listing. The coin will be shipped in the holder shown in Photos 7 and 8. Unlike slabbed coins, this is an US half dollar that one can handle, hold, touch and look at unimpeded rather than staring distantly through a thick plastic holder designed purposefully to separate you from your coin. However, in order to retain full integrity, prevent accidents and reserve all rights to return this coin, the purchaser must not open this flip coin holder until she or he are absolutely sure they do not wish to return this half dollar (see my full return policy restrictions for complete details).
CASTAINING MACHINE ERROR: The lettering impressed on the vertical edge of this half dollar was added by a Castaining machine. This was performed before the faces of the coin were stamped. Processing the coin through the Castaining machine performed two functions. First, it impressed letters or geometric designs (i.e., stars, etc.) or both on the vertical edge of coins before final minting was performed and the obverse and reverse stamped. Edge lettering impeded the shaving off or illicit removal of some of the metal along the vertical side of a coin and was not able to be successfully duplicated by counterfeiters. Second, the Castaining process also raised the outer edge of the coin so that the coin would receive a stronger impression of the beaded edge motif stamped on both obverse and reverse. But when a coin was not properly processed through the Castaining dies, then the raising of the outermost edge of the planchet was incomplete and the result often left poorly rendered beading along parts of the coin where the edge was not properly raised. This seems to occur more on one face than on both possibly caused by how well the dies are aligned and how thick and uniform are the planchets.
The Castaining machine used two separate lettered dies that were set apart so that the coin blank (planchet) would be slightly squeezed as the planchet passed through the machine and the edge lettering was impressed. The squeezing also caused the outer edge of the planchet to raise up slightly over the flat face on both the obverse and reverse sides. A raised rim edge would allow the outer beaded rim motif to be better rendered since stamping an edge lettered coin required that a collar not be used. A collar set between the two dies was used to restrain the coin from expanding as the dies stamped their images and lettering on each face. The use of a collar during the minting of coins with edge lettering would have deformed and obliterated the edge letters since the lettering was impressed prior to stamping. Until reeded edges were developed, edge lettering required stamping coins without using a collar to restrain them. The half dollar listed here did not have a fully raised rim edge since the Castaining machine malfunctioned. On this half dollar, the two Castaining dies overlapped in coverage leaving part of the rim flat and not prepared and raised as intended. The overlap of the two Castaining dies created a lettered edge that reads ‘FIFTY CENTS OF A DOLLAR’ (see Photo 5) rather than ‘FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR.’ The collapsed OF was accidentally created when the first Castaining die ended prematurely short with ‘CENTS O’ rather than ‘CENTS OR,’ and the intervening space was skipped over as the second die started belatedly at the ‘F’ of the word ‘HALF’ before finishing the phrase with ‘A DOLLAR.’ The end result is a very compressed ‘O’ and ‘F’ that seems to make sense as ‘FIFTY CENTS OF A DOLLAR’ but is merely a mechanical malfunction. Photo 5 shows how close the ‘O’ and ‘F’ are stamped creating the appearance of the word ‘OF’ when in fact the letters are from two words.
Castaining machine lettering errors occur quite often as existing coins illustrate. In fact, lettering errors from Castaining machines are more commonly found in the middle of the two part phrase than at either the beginning or end of the phrase, although all types of overlapping errors have been encountered including the upside down (inversion) of one lettering die to the other. Less knowledgeable or beginning coin collectors sometimes have thought that errors in edge lettering were proof of counterfeit coins. However no coins have been identified to date that have both Castaining machined lettered edges and were also counterfeited and produced back in the 1800s. Good luck, thanks for visiting, and do let me know if you have any questions – cheers, Doc.
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RETURN POLICY: Satisfaction and peace of mind are guaranteed for all Docs Antiques listings here on Ruby Lane. And this means that if the buyer is unhappy with their purchase, then she/he may return it by sending this half dollar back to me post marked within fourteen days of original receipt at your address as long as the (1) coin holder has not been opened or altered, (2) the coin was not damaged during shipping or delivery (under no event should the buyer ship a damaged coin back since that will void the original insurance), (3) the coin is in the exact same condition as originally listed, and (4) all security details remain intact. We request that the buyer contact us ASAP if the coin was damaged during shipping or delivery. The coin holder allows the buyer to review this coin without removing it from its holder. Once the coin holder has been opened or altered, then this coin can not be returned unless the buyer obtained my written email consent ahead and in a timely manner.
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