1861 50C CSA Restrike (1861 Half Dollar CSA Restrike) NGC MS64. This rare, historic Civil War 1861 Half Dollar, has silver-grey toning with multicolored highlights of blue, green orange, and lavender. The coin is graded by its reverse. No wear is seen, as expected for a mint state coin. While the coin shows slight flatness on the obverse, as expected for a restrike, the reverse shows areas of full details as seen on the shield, the wreath, and its knot. The coin was made by grinding down the original reverse and using a new die to strike it. There is chipping at the dentils above ER in AMERICA, which authenticates this piece as a restrike.
Christian Gobrecht designed the obverse of the Seated Liberty half dollar. It depicts Liberty seated looking over her shoulder to the left. She balances the Union Shield inscribed LIBERTY with her right hand and holds a staff on which is placed a Phrygian cap in her left. There are seven stars to the left and six to the right interrupted by her head and the capped pole. The dated is below. The reverse, designed by A.H. M. Patterson, a New Orleans engraver and die sinker, shows a Confederate shield surrounded by an open wreath of cotton and wheat tied with a bow at the bottom. On a pole at the top of the shield is a Phrygian cap. The inscription CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA is in an arc at the top, and the denomination, written as HALF DOL. is below.
Immediately following the Civil War, numismatists did not know that the Confederate States had its own coinage with distinctive designs. However, after the war, Dr. B.F. Taylor, the former Chief Coiner for the Confederacy, retained in his possession the reverse die of the CSA fifty cent piece and four original coins. He kept this die secretly in fear of being prosecuted for treason since he supervised the manufacturing of the enemy’s coinage. In 1879, he revealed in the New Orleans Picayune that he had the die and an original coin. Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., a coin dealer bought the die and coin and sold them to J.W. Scott. When the editor or the American Journal of Numismatics learned of the restrike, he said, “This piece having been struck in the New Orleans Mint by government officers, with government tools, and on silver stolen from the United States, should be restored to its true ownership, and that it be place in the Mint Cabinet. The obverse die, we hear, was claimed by the government; why not the reverse also?”
Scott, a creative entrepreneur, wanted to promote and make restrikes of the half dollar. The die that he bought was rusted and a piece of the border near ER had been chipped. He didn’t think the die would last too long. David Proskey helped Scott repolish it to reduce the effect of the rust, and they struck 500 tokens that were probably made from tin. These tokens had an advertising message or store card for Scott with the following inscription: 4 ORIGINALS STRUCK BY ORDER OF C.S.A. IN NEW ORLEANS 1861 *******REV. [sic] SAME AS U.S. (FROM ORIGINAL DIE: SCOTT). Since the die did not deteriorate during this run, Scott put his original plan into place. He used 500 1861 federal half dollars, some from circulation, and supposedly all from the New Orleans Mint. Proskey and he held four coins on a brass block with the obverse facing down and using a collar to prevent spreading, overstruck the coins with the Confederate reverse. The result was not particularly satisfying because the images of the original Federal and the CSA reverses mingled. To ameliorate this problem, Proskey planed off the reverses of the remaining 500 half dollars. They were then struck with the Confederate reverse. The result was that the restrikes produced had obverse flatness and unevenly struck reverses with weakness often seen in the legend. The coins were also lighter than the original by about half of a gram. After he struck these restrikes, Scott annealed the die and used a chisel to deface it. The present coin, B-8002, is one of these planed restrikes.
Since Proskey was able to take care of the operations, Scott was free to begin a marketing plan to sell the restrikes. He advertised that his offering was oversubscribed; however, only a portion of the mintage had been sold. Proskey later said that the remaining pieces were in Scott’s inventory for many years. It was not until the 1920’s that they were extensively distributed.
Modern copies of the Scott restrikes have been made in the last sixty years. They are usually struck in white metal or bronze and have little or no collector value. Authentic restrikes made by Scott are highly desirable numismatic pieces. All authentic copies of the Scott restrike are highly sought because people place them in the category of genuine Civil War artifacts. In its population report, NGC shows 10 1861 50 cent restrikes, B-002 in MS64 with 4 better; this piece is tied for third finest.
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