Auctioneer says the consignment is "an incredibly fresh collection both Mint State as Proof Seated Liberty half dollars, collected over a span of over 20 years."
The top lot in the auction is the 1839 Seated Liberty at Elbow half-dollar graded Proof 62, Professional Coin Grading Service, with a top estimate exceeding $100,000. This is one of only five examples known to have a Proof finish. The cataloger confirms the grade by noting "a few directional hairlines, perhaps ages back," before adding "steely silver coloration gives the nearly CHOICE specimen an attractive look."
Marc Emory is believed to have discovered the offered example in Europe in 1981, as part of a Proof set. It was previously certified Proof62 by Numismatic Guaranty Co., and most recently sold to Heritage in January 2019 at $54,000.
Christian Gobrecht's first half-dollar was struck in 1839 in two subtypes. The first subtype has Liberty without drapery at her elbow as this example. The second subtype has drapery on the reverse, creating a triangular shape.
David Hall stated on the PCGS CoinFacts entry about the No Drapery Issue, "Obviously it's a very rare proof issuance and it has an added importance because it is both the original issue of the Seated Liberty Half Dollar Series and it is a type that is only available for a year."
A fine die crack in the base of HALF DOL. can identify proof strikes. It also appears faintly through the tops MERICA on reverse. However, the reverse die was used to distinguish between Proof and circulation strikes. Heritage noted that "there are no characteristics that can help distinguish between proofs or business strikes, except for the quality of production." Legend praises both the boldly mirrored reflective areas and the razor-sharp strike on the given example.
Adding a motto in 1866
The 1866-S Seated Liberty No Motto half-dollar graded Mint State 65+ (PCGS) with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker is a highlight among middle-dated issues. This coin, which was struck in a very small mintage of only 60,000 pieces before the new dies bearing the motto IN GOD We TRUST arrived at San Francisco Mint, is one of the most well-known examples.
Legend says, "Shimmering frosty brilliant surface have pearly silver which glows boldly everywhere. Beautifully preserved, made from cracked and clashed dies. These devices are strikingly well-made. In every way, the eye appeal is extraordinary."
This example was previously in Eugene Gardner's collection and was sold at Heritage’s June 2014 Gardner offering. It was then-graded PCGS MS-65 and made $70,500. Heritage noted that Liberty's chin has a small mark, which is a hallmark of this rare San Francisco No Motto Half and confirms it as the third-best-known example of the issue.
Since then, it has been upgraded and Legend's presentation gave it a top estimate at $75,000.
All Seated Liberty half-dollars were produced at the Philadelphia Mint from 1879 to the end of the series in 1891. Some of these Proof coins from late date are exceptional, like the Boylston Collection's 1888 Half Dollar graded Proof 68 Ultra Cameo (NGC). Legend describes it as "simply breathtaking" and informs bidders that this beast is the "FINEST KNOWN."
The catalog entry states, "Stark black contrast with white DEEP CAMEO contrast almost blinds and is eye arresting." The mirrors, which shine brightly, are exceptionally well maintained and provide bold clarity and cleanliness. The fields have a sharp, bold reflection and are sleek and icy. The devices are thickly frosted, and they stand out in 3-D effect as an iceberg above deep ocean surfaces. The surfaces are stunning and eye-catching, as you would expect from such a high grade.
Legend has it that the perfect 1888 half-dollar may be found a home in a high-quality type set. It is estimated to cost between $25,000 and $35,000.