1792 BUST DISME H10C MS65
J-7. FABULOUS SURFACES. ONLY 1 GRADED HIGHER AT NGC.
NGC Graded Higher:
The 1792 Half Disme has serious claim to the title of the first regular U.S. Mint issue. According to a conversation that John A. McAllister, Jr. had with Adam Eckfeldt at the Philadelphia Mint on August 9, 1844, one hundred dollars worth (2,000 coins) of 1792 Half Dismes were struck expressly for George Washington using his personal silverware. Eckfeldt also told McAllister that Washington distributed these pieces as presents, some in Europe but most within the young United States, and that the coins were never intended for circulation. Since the first Mint building was not yet operational, Eckfeldt reported that the coins were struck in John Harper's cellar at the corner of Cherry and 6th Streets in Philadelphia.
Much of what Eckfeldt reported to McAllister in 1844 about the 1792 Half Disme is widely accepted as fact. We believe that Washington did provide the silver for this issue from his own resources, and that the coins were struck in Harper's cellar. An entry in Thomas Jefferson's "household account book" dated July 13, 1792, however, provides a different mintage figure for this issue: "Recd. From the Mint 1500 half dismes from the new coinage." In addition, Washington himself disputes Eckfeldt's claim that the coins were not intended for circulation in his November 6, 1792 National address when he stated:
"In execution of authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our mint. Others have been employed at home. Provisions have been made for the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dimes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them."
The fact that most survivors are well worn lends further support to the theory that the 1792 Half Disme did, indeed, circulate widely in the early years of the United States. (A few examples were almost certainly prepared as presentation pieces, and the stunning Floyd Starr specimen comes immediately to mind in this context.) Only 250-400 examples of this issue are believed extant, and our research also suggests that no more than 15 of these coins have survived in Mint State. With extreme historical significance and undeniable rarity, the 1792 Half Disme is fully deserving of its #18 ranking in the book "100 Greatest U.S. Coins" by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
The pieces referred to by the catch-all title of "patterns" are among the rarest coins ever struck in the United States Mint. There have been many attempts to define the U.S. pattern coin family as a whole. While there are still a few exceptions, we believe that the definition included in the preface to the ninth edition of the book United States Pattern Coins: Complete Source for History Rarity, and Values by Dr. J. Hewitt Judd is the among the most comprehensive ever offered. According to this definition, "A pattern coin is one that was struck at the Philadelphia Mint (with a few exceptions) for purposes of testing a design or concept, or perhaps from unusual die pairs, or in unusual metals, or to create delicacies for collectors, but which differs from normal circulation coins of standard design, date, and metal." As a rule, patterns are exceedingly rare coins. Their original mintages are unknown, although the number of pieces extant, as well as the reasons for their striking, suggest that very few specimens were prepared. Indeed, most patterns were produced to the extent of only a handful of coins. Patterns also offer considerable opportunity for continued study, as the circumstances surrounding the striking of many types and issues remain shrouded in mystery.