1802 DRAPED BUST H10C, LARGE EAGLE AU50
TIED FOR HIGHEST GRADED AT NGC. ONLY 3,060 STRUCK.
NGC Graded Higher:
In 1802, the US was in the early stages of the First Barbary War, a conflict which would last until 1805. This war, the first war formally engaged in by the US outside of North America, was the result of extortion attempts by the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa. Through seizing US merchant ships and holding US citizens captive, the state-sponsored pirates hoped to elicit ransoms and US tributes to Barbary rulers, who at this time ruled the mostly-autonomous North African provinces of the Ottoman Empire. This tactic had a history of working on both the US and European powers. It wasn’t until 1801 when the first incident with a Barbary province occurred under Thomas Jefferson, that payment was refused and the Pasha of Tripoli declared war. The North African belligerent had demanded a $250,000 tribute from the US which at this point had a national budget of $10 million. It is entirely possible that if it were not for Jefferson’s refusal, this exceedingly rare half dime, which is one of an estimated 40 to 50 to have survived the years of an originally 3,060 minted, would have been sent as part of either the ransoms or tribute.
Introduced in 1800, the Draped Bust Half Dime with Large Eagle reverse was produced through 1805. The reason for the design change was to bring this denomination into line with the Dime and Silver Dollar, both of which switched to the Large Eagle reverse in 1798. The Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar would adopt the Large Eagle variant of the Draped Bust design during the 1801-1804 era. The rarest Half Dime of this type is the 1802 which, with only 3,060 pieces produced, is also one of the classic rarities in the entire U.S. silver coin series. Other elusive Draped Bust, Large Eagle Half Dimes are the 1803 Small 8 and, in higher grades, the final-year 1805.