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Obverse of 1795 Half Dollar - Overton 132     Reverse of 1795 Half Dollar - Overton 132


1795 HALF DOLLAR

Variety equivalents:
Beistle 10-C = Overton 132

Rarity: 2 known

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.

Significant examples:
NGC VG-10 (illustrated above).  Purchased over the counter by Manny Acosta at his Southern California coin shop July 25, 2000, then consigned to Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc. "The Benson Collection, Part I", February 16, 18-20, 2001, Lot 1728, where it was described as follows: "1795. Overton-132. Rarity-8, illustrated, sold for $39,100.00 One of two known of the variety. NGC graded VG-10. Numismatists for the last 150 years have accumulated coins and medals in America. Scholarly works began to appear in the late 1850s on die varieties of United States large cents. Other denominations were studied, and two students of the time, J. Colvin Randall and Capt. John W. Haseltine examined available collections of the day and published a die variety reference on United States quarters, half dollars and silver dollars, under Capt. Haseltine's name (Randall apparently never forgave Haseltine for claiming the work as his alone). The Haseltine work was the standard reference for these silver varieties for about 5 decades. In time, collectors began to find new varieties, and a new wave of updated variety books was published in the 1920s and later. M. L. Beistle published an excellent work on half dollar varieties in 1929, based on his own collection, the collection of David Proskey and Mr. E. H. R. Green. The Beistle book stood as the standard reference until the 1960s, when Al Overton published his own study of early half dollar die varieties, along with subsequent revisions and updates. The Beistle book proved to be very accurate, but lacked the plates of later varieties desired by collectors.
One die pairing of 1795 half dollars proved to be very troubling. Beistle noted on page 10 of his book under variety 1795 10 C that ..."This die variety is very similar to Nos. 1, 2 and 6. The last star point is close to the end of the bust, and the first star and curl are in the same position as on No. 2. This variety can readily become confused with No. 6, but there is one very decided difference. On No. 6, E and R in LIBERTY are wide spaced, and on this variety they are close spaced, and almost touch at the base." Beistle goes on to say "Exceedingly rare; the only one I have seen and believe it to be unique."
Beistle printed plates of the 1794 and 1795 half dollars, as well as other selected varieties. Included in these plates is a photograph of his 10 C variety, the coin he thought to be unique. Beistle's 1795 variety 10 C is important because his obverse 10 was not paired with any other known reverses, while reverse C was used in 1795 to produce Beistle's 1 C variety (Overton-101) which is extremely rare, with only 5 specimens known of the B 1-C or O-101 variety. When Overton published his variety reference on half dollars, he initially dropped Beistle 10 C as he could not locate a specimen, and none of the half dollar collectors he knew had ever seen one. Later, in his second 1970 edition, Overton included 1795 Beistle 10 C as Overton-132, and used the same photograph to represent the variety that Beistle has used.
In 1990, the Third Edition of Early Half Dollar Die Varieties, 1794 - 1836 was published by Don Parsley, updating the Overton reference with a condition census and additional varieties discovered since 1970. Despite years and years of dozens of collectors actively attributing bust half dollars, no one had found the original Beistle 10 C coin, nor had anyone turned up another example. Doubts had begun to form about the Beistle 10 C. Parsley stated after the variety description of 1795 Overton-132 "If in fact, this marriage exists, this piece may be unique. Any information the reader may have would be welcome." Another decade passed, thousands and thousands of bust half dollars were attributed, purchased and sold. Still no example of the 1795 Beistle 10 C (O-132) was located, despite the best efforts of the Bust Half Nut variety collectors club.
The decades of speculation were finally laid to rest in July of 2000, Southern California coin dealer Manny Acosta purchased a 1795 half dollar from a customer in his store. Acosta called half dollar specialist Gary Beedon and asked him to help him attribute his new purchase. Beedon and Acosta soon discovered that the new 1795 half dollar was an example of Beistle 10 C, or Overton 132. To say the discovery was exciting is a serious understatement. Not only did this coin confirm that O-132 did exist, but the example found was different from the coin pictured in Beistle's book. To locate a variety which has been unconfirmed for over 70 years is certainly the find of a lifetime. For bust half dollar collectors, this is one of the most important finds in decades.
As to the coin itself, it is generally untoned and silvery-white in color. The obverse has typical marks expected for the grade, but the rims and surfaces show no significant defects or circulation problems. On the reverse, the unique berry combination 10 on the left branch and 9 on the right quickly identify this as Reverse A (Overton) or C (Beistle). Note that there are four berries on the lower right branch under the wing, both outside berries are small and partially covered by the branch. Well struck by the dies, this coin is quite pleasing for its moderate grade. The obverse die failed quickly, with a strong die break through RTY of LIBERTY. So far as is known, only two coins survived, one of which hasn't been published since 1929, and this example. To say this is a foremost opportunity would be an understatement. This is the opportunity to purchase this variety. Once sold, it may not be offered again for decades unless the buyer from this sale decides to part with it. No hint of a third example has been heard.
After reviewing the Beistle reference, the cataloger (JMM) noticed a small but very important clue pertaining to the Beistle 10 C coin. Beistle noted in his Foreword that his collection was formed with the help of David Proskey and Mr. E. H. R. Green. Beistle notes that through Proskey, Beistle was able to "possess and register many of my rarest varieties, not a few of which came from his private collection." It thus appears that Proskey sold Beistle coins for his collection, including pieces from Proskey's own private collection. Although Beistle did not auction his personal collection, some of the coins used in his plates have turned up in half dollar collections, and it is likely that Beistle's coins were sold sometime after his book was published in 1929 although the disposition of his collection was not published or auctioned.
Reading on Beistle continues in his Foreword as follows:
"This work would not have been brought up to its present completeness had it not been for my friend Mr. E. H. R. Green of South Dartmouth, Mass., who is an ardent collector as well as an advanced student of numismatics. I am very much indebted to Mr. Green for loaning me his entire collection of Half Dollars for checking die varieties, which enabled me to make this work more complete than otherwise. At the same time, it gave me an opportunity when making my plates, to photograph some of his finest and rarest specimens."
My guess is that Beistle did not own the example of 10 C, but that it resided in the Green collection. Further evidence supports this in the fact that the plate for 1795 obverse 10 is dropped in seemingly as an afterthought, on page XXV after the 1796-97 half dollars. Note that all other half dollars plated are in date, variety and letter order. Obverse 1795 10 is the one exception to proper sequential ordering. Let me emphasize what Beistle says in the paragraph about Col. Green. Beistle states that his book was "brought up to its present completeness" by coins Green "loaned" him. Further, Beistle thanks Green for allowing him to "photograph some of his finest and rarest specimens." As the Beistle collection was apparently sold or broken up, yet the 1795 10-C has not turned up, there is certainly a better than average chance that the coin used in his book resides in the Col. Green collection. Based on the location of the 1795 Beistle 10 obverse in the plates, it appears that it turned up very late in the publication process, and barely made it into the Beistle book. The Col. Green collection was broken up in the 1940s, with some of the more important coins sold directly to a famous mid west collector, where they remain to this day. With no evidence to the contrary, it is likely that the long missing 1795 Beistle 10-C, Overton-132 coin is held in that famous collection today. This would explain why the coin hasn't turned up in over 70 years.
Now at last, a second specimen has turned up, the specimen offered here. Rumors of the demise of Beistle's 1795 10-C were exaggerated, and at last all collectors will have a chance to finally purchase this coin for their variety collections. When the hammer falls, there will be one very happy collector who can finally knock this coin off their want list, after decades of uncertainty and searching, the existence of Beistle 10 C is finally solved."