1812 CAPPED BUST 50C, LETTERED EDGE MS66
A FABULOUS GEM. O-110. TIED FOR HIGHEST GRADED AT NGC.
Very few know how pivotal the year 1812 was for the books with five wars raging across the globe and world altering changes occurring. Which leads us to the unfortunate truth: War is always an indefinite certainty with expanding civilizations that inevitably lead to shifts in power that can change the course of history forever. Such an event was catalyzed on June 1, 1812 when President James Madison requested a declaration of war from congress. Madison was fed up with the British restrictions on American trade, the frequent instigation of Native wars on the frontier, but most of all the blatant disrespect the British Navy had for any American forces. Unfortunately, Madison’s request was not approved before Great Britain enforced a secret blockade against America on June 16th; war was officially declared on June 18th. By August13th that same year the war at sea had begun with a U.S. victory that overinflated our egos. It was indeed a fantastic feat since Great Britain maintained the most powerful Naval fleet for centuries and here this relatively new country blows out of the woodworks with a win. As with many wars, not all battles can be victories, and the U.S. was quickly reminded of that in the next battle three days later. This give-and-take trend was not an uncommon occurrence during the War of 1812, but three years later the United States was the ultimate victor. This outcome sparked the flame of patriotism in the American mindset, changed the course of history for militant power, and showed just how powerful the new Nation was.
It is more likely that this Capped Bust fifty-cent coin from 1812 is a more fondly remembered piece of history than the multiple wars occurring at the time. As a member of the “bust halves” series, this coin is part of the “true heart of United States coinage” from the “peak” era of silver coins. Like many of the earliest coins, the capped bust halves were struck with screw presses that often required manual input that in turn created a veritable plethora of unique strikes. Another characteristic of early U.S. coinage was frequent design change that was often congruent with leadership turnover. The fifty-cent coin was no exception when Robert Patterson stepped in as Director of the Mint and enforced change across the board. As part of the change, Patterson also hired a new engraver whom he thought could add European elegance and culture to the coin. His new engraver, John Reich did indeed bring Patterson desire’s to life. Reich’s design featured a more robust, European-looking Lady Liberty that now faced left in a mobcap over flowing hair, surrounded by thirteen stars on the obverse. The reverse featured the legally required eagle, which bore a shield on its chest, with its denomination below. As with almost all United States coinage, this too went through a few modifications throughout production that resulted in subtypes. Type one had a lettered edge with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM around the coin to save space on the face, the second had a reeded edge as a result of more advanced technology, and the third kept the reeded edge but changed the denomination to HALF DOL. Part of the intrigue this coin holds, beside the subtypes, are its various die varieties that keep collectors on their toes and truly demonstrates the diversity of the earliest American coins.