Sunday, October 2, 2011

JR Newsletter: 2 October 2011 (56)

I have an interesting correspondence to share.  I corresponded with Mark Borckhardt at Heritage concerning a half dime in an auction.  I thought the pictures portrayed an 1829 LM-6.2 die marriage, yet the NGC attribution was 1829 LM-6.1.  With Mr. Borckhardt's permission, I have recreated the correspondence here:

From Richard Meaney to Heritage:

There is a capped bust half dime in the October 13-16 US Coins Signature Auction #1160 that I believe is misattributed and deserves a closer look. The coin is described as "1829 H10C --Improperly Cleaned-- NGC Details. Unc. LM-6.1"  I believe the coin is not an LM-6.1, instead it is an LM-6.2.  The difference to a specialist is significant, since the LM-6.1 is very, very scarce. Key attribution points to tell if it is an LM-6.1 as opposed to an LM-6.2 (reference "Federal Half Dimes 1792-1837" especially page 66):

 -According to the die remarriage chart referenced above, the first angle of the N of UNITED fills with a tiny die chip during the second use of Reverse E.
-The first use of Reverse E was for the 1829 LM-6.1, the second use was for the 1829 LM-7.1.
-The first 1829 LM-6 die remarriage to feature the filling of the N of UNITED is the 1829 LM-6.2.
-The coin in the Heritage auction features a die chip in the N of UNITED, indicating to me that it was struck after the 1829 LM-6.1 and must therefore be an 1829 LM-6.2.

 NGC and PCGS have a difficult time with this attribution, as each has made the same mistake at least once  in the last couple of years.

Thank you for your attention,
Richard Meaney

Mr. Borckhardt's response to me:


I tend to agree with your opinion that the 1829 Half Dime in our Auction 1160 is LM-6.2, however, there are certain features that suggest it might actually be LM-6.1. I have looked closely at the coin, as well as the descriptions and photos in the LM book. Photos can also be deceiving. Take a look at the upper loop of the final S in the LM plates of LM-6.3 (clearly filled) and LM-7.3 (possibly filled but not nearly as obvious), suggesting that LM-6.3 is a later die state. Compare that to the tops of ER in each photo, with a faint crack to the left top of the E on LM-6.3, and a heavier die crack through the tops of ER on LM-7.3, suggesting that LM-7.3 is a later die state.

Below are my observations, and I will look forward to your final thoughts. Afterward, I will see about modifying the description accordingly.
Mark Borckardt

1829 LM-6.1, 6.2, and 7.1
-The early die states of Reverse E, and the correct attribution of LM-6.1, 7.1, and 6.2, can be extremely difficult. The Logan-McCloskey work records the following die stages of Reverse E:

LM-6.1: Strong devices and dentils. Both berries have distinct stems.
LM-7.1: First angle of N fills with small die chip.
LM-6.2: First angle of N filled with small die chip. Small cud forms in dentils above M. Die crack forms from rim through top of E3.

The reverse die was clearly lapped between its use for LM-7.1 and LM-6.2.  It may also have been lapped between its use for LM-6.1 and LM-7.1.

Admittedly, the presence of a tiny die chip in the angle of the N would suggest die state LM-6.2. The later die state of LM-6.3 has the top loop of the final S filled, so that die state is not applicable to this discussion. There are a couple features visible in the LM-6.1 and LM-7.1 plates in Logan-McCloskey that are not visible in the LM-6.2 plate, and another feature of LM-6.2 that is not apparent in the plates of the earlier die states.

1. Although faint, both berries have complete stems visible for LM- 6.1 and LM-7.1, with the stem of the upper berry actually appearing stronger on the plate of LM-7.1. The stem to the upper berry is
entirely absent in the plate of LM-6.2 and later states.

2. The right base of the F is clearly repunched, visible in the plates of LM-6.1 and LM-7.1, although that repunching is not visible on LM-6.2 or later.

3. Each letter in E PLURIBUS UNUM in the LM-6.2 plate appears to have a reflective appearance, suggesting the die was lapped prior to that die state.

4. The die crack to the left top of E3 begins to form on LM-6.2 and  becomes obvious on later states.

Features of the piece in our sale 1160 suggest more strongly that it is LM-6.1, but other features suggest it may be LM-6.2

A. The upper berry has a complete stem, suggesting LM-6.1
B. The repunched right base of the F is sharply visible, suggesting LM-6.1
C. While the surrounding field is mildly reflective, there is no reflective or mirrored appearance within the letters of the motto, suggesting LM-6.1
D. There is evidence of a tiny die chip in the angle of the N, suggesting LM-6.2
E. There is an extremely faint trace of the die crack to the left top of E3 suggesting LM-6.2


My response to Mr. Borckhardt's thorough, in-hand analysis:


You have a great advantage of having the coin in hand...a very fortunate circumstance.  It's tough out here in "customer land" trying to decipher die marriages and remarriages without such a benefit.  That being said, it seems to me that the two key factors your description provides are:

D. There is evidence of a tiny die chip in the angle of the N, suggesting LM-6.2

E. There is an extremely faint trace of the die crack to the left top of E3 suggesting LM-6.2

I suggest that these two observations indicate to me that the coin is likely an example of the 1829 LM-6.2, since the LM-6.2 was struck after the 1829 LM-7.1.  One should see the die chip in N and crack at E3 in examples of the LM-7.1 and the LM-6.2, but certainly not in any examples of the LM-6.1.

I know I will treat it as an 1829 LM-6.2 based on the information at hand (and therefore not be part of the bidding...I so WISHED it was an LM-6.1, since I need an example of that remarriage).

If you think it would be helpful, I could solicit opinions of other half dime specialists such as Steve Crain and Glenn Peterson.

Thank you,

Richard Meaney


And the final bit of correspondence back to me from Mr. Borckhardt:

I tend to agree with your thoughts. I'll change the description. Thanks so much for your observations and also for letting us know about it.


My comments to those reading this edition of the JR Newsletter:  I got a response back from Heritage VERY quickly on my inquiry.  Mr. Borckhardt and I were able to have a substantive discussion via email, allowing us to reach a conclusion that should help collectors or dealers who may be interested in the coin.  The body of Mr. Borckhardt's writings contain some really neat pointers as to how he goes about identifying die states that I think many of us could appreciate and possibly throw into our respective "bags of tricks" when we evaluate coins.  I did discuss this coin with one fellow specialist and he also agreed that it was an 1829 LM-6.2.

I hope you enjoyed this information,
Richard Meaney


Bob Stark wrote:

Thank You, Richard. I do enjoy opening the JR Letter each Sunday--and would enjoy it even more if  early dollar scribes contributed.

  Best wishes,
   Bob Stark