A Superb Gem 1792 silver half disme highlights Stack’s Bowers annual New York Americana Sale, held January 22-24, 2013.
Graded MS-68 by NGC, none finer is known. It is the only example certified at this level by any service.
The 1792 silver half disme remained with the Rittenhouse family until October 1919 when it was consigned to Henry Chapman’s American Numismatic Association convention auction and cataloged as lot 249. The coin’s complete lineage will be traced and included in Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ New York Americana Sale catalog.
"The 1792 half disme is one of my favorite coins," said Dave Bowers, chairman emeritus for Stack’s Bowers Galleries. "I expect this marvelous example to attract worldwide attention. The David Rittenhouse pedigree is the best of the best!"
Following passage of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, President George Washington appointed David Rittenhouse as director of the Philadelphia Mint. On July 31, work began at the Mint site. In the meantime, the president decided to inaugurate federal coinage by having dies prepared for a silver half disme, or five-cent piece, familiarly known as the half dime. Washington personally arranged for a supply of silver metal and in mid-July, about 1,500 pieces were struck in the shop of John Harper, not far from where the Mint would begin operation. Nearly all of these coins were placed into circulation.
"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," President Washington stated in his annual address to Congress.
Upon contemplating the 1792 silver half disme, Dave Bowers invited Dr. Joel Orosz and Leonard Augsburger, authors of the award-winning book, The Secret History of the First United States Mint, to contribute an appreciation of this historic coin. The essay will also be included in the New York Americana Sale catalog.
"Both sides present a picture of numismatic beauty that combines expert striking quality and equally careful surface preservation. The luster quality on both sides is equally remarkable, the surfaces shimmering with a bright, satin to semi-prooflike texture as the coin rotates under a light," Jeff Ambio, vice president of numismatics and auction production for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, says in describing the surfaces of the 1792 silver half disme.
"There is not even a single distracting abrasion in evidence, and the surfaces even retain their pristine appearance when examined with the aid of a strong loupe. The vivid, multicolored toning that adorns both sides of this coin complements and accentuates its impressive technical aspects. In short, this is a beautiful coin with tremendous eye appeal," adds Ambio.
The 1792 silver half disme is one of nearly 100 important U.S. coin and related rarities in The Cardinal Collection. Others include a Gem 1793 Chain AMERICA cent, an MS-69 1793 Wreath cent (the highest-graded copper large cent of any date 1793-1857), the Specimen-66 1794 silver dollar (far and away the finest known), and more.
"I expect numismatic history to be made," commented Chris Napolitano, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. "For the next month our entire organization will be concentrating on our Americana Sale, with consignments still coming in. The offering of coins, medals and tokens will be one of the most outstanding of our generation."
In addition to The Cardinal Collection, the Americana Sale will feature American classics in other series, including additional United States coin rarities. The auction will be spread over three days, and will include several thousand lots. Printed catalogs are available upon request by calling 800.458.4646.
Online bidding and pre-auction bids will begin in December on StacksBowers.com, by email at auction@StacksBowers.com and by phone at 800.458.4646.