Rare branch mint proof half dollar sells for $504,000 at auction
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Rare branch mint proof half dollar sells for $504,000 at auction
The 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar valued at as much as $500,000.

SANTA ANA, CA.- Numismatic auction powerhouse Stack’s Bowers Galleries just sold a famous and ultra-rare 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar at the Whitman Baltimore Winter Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center for $504,000.

The 1838-O half dollar is one of only nine known to exist from an estimated mintage of no more than 20 coins. This issue represents the first half dollars struck by the then newly opened New Orleans Mint and were produced in a special presentation format known as Proof or Specimen.

The New Orleans Mint was established to produce coins of several different denominations, but its main focus was the half dollar. The half dollar was the most convenient medium of converting the flow of uneven quality Latin American silver coins into a sufficient quantity of new United States coins fit for banking and commerce.

However, technical issues and the spread of yellow fever in the area limited production at the New Orleans Mint in for 1838 and very few coins were struck as a result. Now, the Branch Mint Proof 1838-O Half Dollar is one of the most sought-after coins by collectors and enthusiasts alike due to its rarity, and this particular specimen is one of the finest examples available.

A visually stunning example with distinctly sharp features, the surfaces are highly reflective and clearly indicative of a special striking. Light golden-orange peripheries and brief ice blue highlights mark the obverse, while the reverse displays light copper-rose and pale blue iridescence in the fields.

Of the nine known, this piece is known as the Cox Specimen and has been off the market since the 1980s. It hails from "Colonel" E.H.R. Green, the son of the infamous “Witch of Wall Street” Hetty Green, who once owned no less than six (!) 1838-O half dollars. From there, it passed through the hands of several prominent collectors and dealers.

The 1838-O half dollar as an issue has myriad factors that make it a great numismatic coin, one that will forever be revered, studied and dreamed about. The present coin is a stunning example of the issue, and may well find itself off the market for another 40 years.

“This is one of those coins that every serious collector dreams about acquiring,” said Brian Kendrella, President of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “It almost seems that it was fated to become a collector’s item from the day it was struck.”

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