J-342 1863 50c Pattern - J342 1863 Half Dollar Pattern NGC PF66. R-7- This rare lustrous Civil War dated proof 1863 Silver Half Dollar Pattern piece has attractive toning on both sides and is tied for second finest at NGC and is finer than any at PCGS. The obverse shows light silvery pink, blue and light tan on the devices and a much darker blue and blue-grey field creating a cameo-like effect. The reverse shows sliver-grey and light tan devices on a light grey-blue field with darker blue toning at the edge. The strike is sharp and full, as expected for a proof coin, and the surfaces are clean and original. There are no slide marks, lint marks, or hairlines visible to the naked eye.
The pattern is a transitional piece that was produced at the Mint at a later date. It uses the regular Liberty Seated design created by Christian Gobrecht for the obverse and adds the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to a ribbon above the eagle on the reverse. It is the same coin that was adopted for regular production in 1866. It was also made in copper (J-343) and aluminum (J-344).
The obverse shows 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 date is below. The reverse shows the heraldic eagle looking left. It is surrounded by the required inscription and the denomination written as HALF DOL. below. Dentils are around the periphery of both sides of the coin.
Both before and during the Civil War almost a dozen Protestant denominations pressured Congress to add references to God to the Constitution and other government documents. Reverend Mark Richards Watkinson was the first to write to Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase to request that God’s name be added to our coinage. His suggestion for a motto was “God, Liberty, Law.” Chase ordered Mint Director James Pollock to prepare a suitable motto. Pollock’s suggestions included “Our Trust Is In God,” “Our God And Our Country,” and “God Our Trust,” the present coin. Then Chase decided on “In God We Trust” to be added to most of the nation’s coinage. This motto was a subtle reminder that the North considered itself on the side of God with regard to the issue of slavery. A new law was required to allow the motto to be added since previous acts of Congress specified the mottos and devices that were permitted on coins. The new motto was placed on all coins that were deemed large enough to accommodate it.
Not only were the Mint officials trying to determine the best wording for the motto, they were also trying to decide how to place the motto on the coin. James B. Longacre, who was now the Chief Engraver, added mottos to various coins. In 1861 a pattern half dollar, J-277, had GOD OUR TRUST added on a scroll above the eagle. A second pattern for that year, J-279, had the motto in small letters added above the eagle with no scroll. Similarly in 1862 there was a pair of GOD OUR TRUST patterns with and without a scroll, J-293 and J-295. In 1863 the IN GOD WE TRUST motto appeared on patterns for the two-cent piece and half dollar. Longacre designed the two-cent piece, which was the first coin to use the motto and officially issued in 1864.
Christian Gobrecht became the third Chief Engraver at the United States Mint. He was born in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1785. His father was a German immigrant, and his mother traced her ancestry to the early settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Gobrecht married Mary Hewes in 1818. One of his early positions was as an engraver of clocks in Baltimore. Later he went to Philadelphia where he became a banknote engraver. He invented a machine that allowed one to convert a three-dimensional medal into an illustration. This was an excellent job and Gobrecht was understandably reluctant to work for the Mint for less money than he was making at the engraving firm. In order to persuade him to leave, Mint Director Robert Patterson prevailed upon Chief Engraver William Kneass, who had had a stroke, to take less in salary so more money would be available to hire Gobrecht on a permanent basis. In 1826 Gobrecht did his first work for the Mint as an assistant to Kneass. After Kneass’ stroke, Gobrecht did all the die and pattern work for the Mint. He became Chief Engraver in 1840 and served until his death in 1844. He was famous for his Liberty Seated motif which was used for all denominations of sliver coinage including the half-dime, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar and sliver dollar. He also designed the Liberty Head gold eagle, a motif that was also used on the half-cent, the cent, the gold quarter eagle, and the gold half eagle.
An R7 rating means that 7 to 12 pieces are known in all grades. In its population report, NGC shows 2 J-342’s in PF66 with 2 better. PCGS shows none higher than PF65.