1574

1877 $50 Half Union Pattern. Judd-1547, Pollock-1720. Large Head. Gilt Copper. Reeded Edge. R-7. Pro

Currency:USD Category:Coins & Paper Money Start Price:66,670.00 USD Estimated At:0.00 - 0.00 USD
1877 $50 Half Union Pattern. Judd-1547, Pollock-1720. Large Head. Gilt Copper. Reeded Edge. R-7. Pro
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The present specimen is lively deep yellow-gold with deeper highlights across both sides, particularly in the protected shield lines on the reverse. A faint obverse line runs crescent-like from the back of Liberty’s hair to a point near star 12, forever marking this particular specimen and probably keeping it always in the Choice Proof category. However, when dealing with a pattern of this magnitude, being steward to a specimen that is “only” Proof-63 and CAC-approved has absolutely no down side to our eyes. Indeed, the uspatterns.com website tells of 10 confirmed examples of J-1547 with perhaps a few more known, four examples of which are held tightly in museum collections, and the others held just as tightly in private collections. This specimen was listed 10th on their list but only because it was the most recent transaction involving J-1547, see pedigree below. Whenever and wherever an example of J-1547 appears, collectors or their representatives rush to the event. As we all know, however, there can only be one successful ending among all who attempt to take the prize. Make no mistakes – this is a prize well worth the test of your bidding mettle!
Alternately called “Quintuple Eagle.” Obverse die by William Barber, reverse die close after double eagle die of the era. Among the most celebrated of U.S. coinage rarities – even though properly a pattern – the gold $50 Half Union coinage of 1877 consisted of a solitary gold pattern with Barber’s Large Head design, Judd-1546, and another solo issue in gold, Judd-1548, with the artist’s Small Head style. Copper strikes of both were also produced, some of which were later gilt as witnessed here. If not for the copper and gilt pieces, the otherwise unique $50 Half Union patterns would not be available to today’s collecting public. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 1915-S Panama-Pacific gold $50 coins that the denomination actually saw fruition, even though that was in limited numbers and for a special occasion.
The year 1877 was as much a banner year for patterns as 1936 was for silver commemorative half dollars. In 1877 Morgan created half dollar and dollar patterns that would morph into his famous silver dollars of 1878-1921, William Barber was no less busy with his numerous depictions of Liberty across the denomination spectrum, and the pattern fanciers outside the Mint were no doubt in numismatic heaven. Even Mint Director Henry R. Linderman jumped aboard the pattern bandwagon. A coin collector in an enviable position, Linderman ordered William Barber to produce the pair of gold Half Union pieces for the Mint’s collection, and no doubt the copper pieces were made soon thereafter for certain friends of the Mint who may have desired one of these unique-denomination patterns. The denomination would have proven useful in California in the 1850s, at which time it was first proposed, but it was an unnecessary face value by 1877.
The two gold examples of this famous issue were embroiled in controversy when early pattern specialist William Woodin showed them in public for the first time at a numismatic gathering in 1909, after having obtained them from the Mint Collection for $10,000 each, a princely sum in that era. Controversy followed and Woodin seemingly had the devil’s time trying to return the pieces to Uncle Sam. Later in 1909, the situation with the two gold coins was finally resolved and they moved into a new home at the Smithsonian Institution, where they reside to this day.
For the record, the writer finds the differences between Barber’s two head styles can be told best by the point of Liberty’s Coronet; the point is nearly mid-way between stars 5 and 6 on the Large Head style offered here, while the point is very near to star 6 on the Small Head style. There are differences in date location and hair style as well, but the star measurement is the simplest and quickest tell.
PCGS Population, Gilt: 2; 1 finer (Proof-65). The firm has also seen five individual copper specimens, 2 BN, 2 RB, and 1 called Proof-50 BN.

Pedigree:From Heritage’s sale, October, 2011, lot 4582; American Numismatic Rarities sale, June, 2004, lot 1684.
PCGS Coin Facts