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1847 Half Dollar

1847 Half Dollar
PCGS No: 6257, 6391
Circulation strikes: 1,156,000
Proofs: est. 20
Designer: Obverse by Thomas Sully, executed by Christian Gobrecht; reverse by Christian Gobrecht
Diameter: ±30 millimeters
Metal content: Silver - 90%
Copper - 10%
Weight: ±206 grains (±13.4 grams)
Edge: Reeded
Mintmark: None (for Philadelphia, PA) below the eagle on the reverse


Significant examples:
NGC Proof-64. Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coin & Collectibles' "The Fairchild Family Trust Collection Sale", May 28-30, 2001, Lot 715, illustrated, sold for $17,250.00

The finest Uncirculated example graded by PCGS is a single MS-66.

The finest Uncirculated "1847/6" example graded by PCGS is a single MS-62.

The finest Proof example graded by PCGS is a single PR-64.


Following the early Mint tradition of uniformity of design of all silver coins, the Gobrecht Liberty Seated design (after Thomas Sully), adopted for silver dollars in Dec. 1836, was extended to half dollars in 1839. Rev. is similar to previous types, but inscription is at first in small letters similar to those of 1836-37.
The first obv. dies show no extra drapery at crook of elbow; later dies through 1891 have a small extra patch below it. This is nothing like the bulky cloak on the Robert Ball Hughes version found on dollars and smaller silver 1840-91. Only on half dollars does the original Sully-Gobrecht design continue (albeit with redrawn Reich eagles rather than the Peale-Gobrecht flying eagle of the 1836-39 dollars). Nor is it coincidence that the half dollars are the only denomination thereafter to come sharply struck. Coins from the 1839 "no drapery" dies went into circulation early and stayed there; mint-state survivors were until recent years so rare that their existence was controversial, but today perhaps five qualify at that level plus three proofs. Those from the three "with drapery" obvs. are nearly as rare in mint state.
Small Letter revs, continue through 1841; two of the 1841 O dies remained unused and went to press with 1842 Small Date obvs. at New Orleans. These are thought to have formed part of the initial [203.000]; they are almost unobtainable above FINE.
No reason has been found for the change to large letters in 1842; this letter size remained standard through 1891. This new rev. type has been attributed to Robert Ball Hughes.
Issues remained fairly large until 1850. The Mint's principal output in this period continued to consist of cents, half dollars, and half eagles. However, discovery of gold in California sent world market prices down in terms of silver, which trend was experienced in the East as a sharp rise in silver bullion prices reckoned in gold dollars. Eventually (1851-53) bullion dealers bought up most of the Mint's output of larger silver coins for shipment to the West Indies and Latin America, partly as coins, largely as ingots made by melting the coins: They had become worth more than face value as bulk silver. Less silver went to the mints for coinage; survivors remain very scarce, especially near mint state.
Gobrecht died in July 1844. The Mint authorities wanted nobody at all to succeed him; they then preferred to work with friendly outsiders like Charles Gushing Wright, who posed no threat to the lucrative medal business being operated by the brilliant but unscrupulous Chief Coiner, Franklin Peale (Adam Eckfeldt's successor). Unfortunately for them, James Barton Longacre (1794-1869). renowned bank-note-plate engraver and portraitist, exerted political pressure through Sen. (later Vice Pres.) John C. Calhoun, and obtained the Mint engravership as a sinecure. Owing to mechanical improvements by Kneass, Gobrecht, and Peale, manufacture of working dies was totally
mechanized, and an Engraver would be needed only if new denominations were ordered. Longacre's duties, 1844-49. consisted largely of punching dates and mintmarks into otherwise completed working dies. At this donkey work his hand faltered, producing double dates, triple dates, overdates, and blunders such as the 1846 over lazy 6. These blunders some of which may also have come from workmen in the Coiner's Department, as Julian suggests became excuses to oust Longacre; but the real reason for official opposition to him was politics. Not only was Longacre outside the Mint's Imperial Divan (the Eckfeldts. Pattersons. Peales. and DuBois families and their cronies), but worse still, he had achieved the engravership by aid of a notorious politician from slaveholding South Carolina. On Christmas Day, 1849, Mint Director Robert Maskell Patter-son privately offered Charles Gushing Wright the Mint engravership, effective as soon as the establishment could dispose of Longacre; Wright accepted. However, Longacre somehow got wind of the offer, and went over Patterson's head to Calhoun preserving his job at the cost of 19 years of enmity from Mint officials, most of whom Longacre managed to outlive.
The final issue of this type, before adoption of the new weight standard, was from New Orleans (1853 O No Arrows): one of the most famous of American silver rarities. No record survives about this mintage, either of manufacture or disposition, except that the Philadelphia Mint shipped six obv. dies, only one of which was apparently used. There were 19 old revs, on hand from 1851 and possibly earlier years. Records of their disposition are confused; some revs, were returned to Philadelphia, others defaced (with the obvs.?) before June 9, 1853. Absence of any record of manufacture suggests that the few survivors were made for presentation purposes, only to be spent later or kept as pocket pieces. Only three survivors are traced:
1. J. W. Haseltine (before 1881), J. Colvin Randall (1885), H. P. Newlin, T. Harrison Garrett, J. W. Garrett:339, $40,000. F. 201 grs. = 13.02 gms.
2. Colin E. King:854 (1892), Col. E. H. R. Green, "Ander-son Dupont," C. A. Cass, "Empire," A. M. Kagin, R. E. Cox, E. Yale Clarke:289, $24.000, Julian Leidman, Roy Ash, Leon Goodman:1712, $16,000, Delaware pvt. coll. G. 199.6 grs. = 12.93 gms.
3. H. O. Granberg, W. H. Woodin. Waido Newcomer, Col. E. H. R. Green, Adolphe Menjou, Louis Eliasberg estate. VG.
A fourth is rumored; authentication is essential. All three genuine specimens are from the same dies; note incomplete third rev. pale gules (nearly vertical embossed stripe). Forgeries are numerous, mostly alterations from 1858 O; these have date elements grossly different in shape from the genuine, and are necessarily lightweight, generally below 192 grs. — 12.44 gms. Others could be made by grinding off arrows and rays from genuine 1853 O coins; these even more lightweight would show abundant evidence of monkey business at date and in fields.
Dates 1848-52 are all rarer than their mintage figures might suggest. The immense shipments of gold from California began lowering the world market price of gold reckoned in silver coins, or effectively raising the price of silver reckoned in gold dollars, until dollars, halves, and quarters became worth enough over face to be worth melting down as bullion.


Designer, Engraver, Christian Gobrecht; obv. after Thomas Sully, rev. after John Reich. Mints, Philadelphia (no mint mark), New Orleans (O below eagle). Physical Specifications, Authorizing Acts, as before.

Grade range, FAIR to UNC. GOOD: Date and all letters legible except LIBERTY. VERY GOOD: At least three letters of LIB¬ERTY legible; partial rims, partial feather and drapery details. FINE: LIBERTY fully clear; most major drapery folds and over half feather details clear (leg at 1. of arrow butts may be weaker). VERY FINE: All major and most minor drapery folds clear; almost all feather details clear. EXTREMELY FINE: Scroll edges and clasp clear; isolated tiny rubbed spots only (mostly on thighs and wingtips). EXCEPTIONS: Some New Orleans issues are weak flat strikings, as noted in text. NOTE: Beware alleged "UNC." coins showing rubbing on thighs and/or signs of cleaning in fields.

  • 1847 [all kinds 1,156,000 + ?P] Normal date.
    Several minor positional vars., some with traces of repunching on digits.
  • 1847 Thin numerals. Rare.
    Hairlike serifs. Same comment as to 4768. Randall, Garrett (1976):210, Proof, $2,300.
  • 1847 Double date. Very rare.
  • 1847 Repunched 47. Scarce. Discovered by John H. Clapp.
  • 1847/46 Ex. rare.
    Beistle 1-A, 1-Aa. Traces of overdate fade (die relapped?). One proof known ("Dupont," Cass, "Empire." Hawn:161, $7,500, E. Yale Clarke:276, $9,000, Robison:1634, $6,000), and possibly 10-12 business strikes. NN, $2,500 (1962), Glassenberg, 1975 ANA:574, borderline UNC., $5,750.


US Rare Coin Investments 2003 - 2015 U.S. Rare Coin Investments

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