O.101 R2. Link/Kaufman. Finest known for the year. The second most important coin in my Capped Bust Half dollar collection, behind only the 1817/4 Eliasberg treasure. Early die state. Obtained from Heritage Platinum Night Auction on 8/3/2012, Lot 5143. Per cataloger, "Ex: Kaufman. Numismatists and collectors who seek a complete date collection must acquire an 1815 half dollar. Similarly, die variety specialists require an example, and those who seek die states must have two different pieces. Many design type collectors have the formation of a complete type set of key-date coins as their goal, and the 1815 half dollar is the best candidate. Finally, a growing trend is the acquisition of "trophy coins," those pieces that combine rarity, quality, and exceptional aesthetic appeal, and this Premium Gem 1815 half dollar combines all of those factors. Demand for a specimen such as this rarity has never been higher.
A single die variety is known for the 1815/2 half dollars, in two distinct die states. The overdate feature is particularly visible at the top of the 5. The obverse has a faint die crack from the curl below the ear, onto the neck. While clash marks are especially visible on the reverse, there is no trace of the reverse die cracks found on later die states.
A young nation, barely four decades old, was undergoing great stress and turmoil in 1815. The War of 1812 was still being waged, and the British capture and burning of Washington, D.C. in August 1814 caused extreme unrest and monetary upheaval. The result of these difficulties was hoarding of hard assets, including gold and silver coins, much as citizens did half a half century later during the Civil War. Paper money, even with gold and silver backing, was refused, and commerce was driven strictly by gold and silver. Due to these circumstances, little or no gold and silver was deposited at the Mint, and their supply of copper for cents was exhausted. Mint operations in Philadelphia nearly came to a stand still, and for much of the year, the facility was completely silent. The first coinage for the year had to wait until November.
Only quarter dollars, half dollars, and half eagles were coined during the year. There was apparently also production of large cents dated 1816, as John Wright relates in The Cent Book: "Late in 1815, the first shipment of British copper arrived and was immediately coined into Robert Scot's new design cents bearing the 1816 date." Quarter dollars dated 1815 were minted late in the year, with two deliveries: the first, dated December 16, 1815, consisted of 69,232 coins. The second was dated January 10, 1816, and consisted of 20,003 quarters. The entire mintage of 47,150 1815-dated half dollars was also delivered on January 10, 1816. The only other coinage in 1815 was a limited number of half eagles. Just 635 pieces were struck, and they were delivered on November 3, 1815. Total production for the year, all in the last two months, was 137,020 coins valued at $49,058.75. After a 10-month silence, Mint workmen coined an average of 13,700 coins per week for 10 weeks.
The finest 1815 half dollars are the present early die state piece and the Eliasberg Gem late die state specimen. Following these two pieces, we find approximately 20 other auction records of MS63 and MS64 coins over the last 20 years. However, we have no hesitation calling the present piece the finest known 1815 half dollar. It has bold central details with an almost medallic appearance, the stars at the left border are strong while those to the right are weak. Both sides have soft, frosty silver luster with grayish-gold patina, surrounded by blue-green, gold, rose, and iridescent toning. The surfaces are well-preserved, with no evidence of mishandling. This Premium Gem is one of the landmark opportunities in the current sale, and once sold, may not appear on the market for many years.
Ex: The Chicago Sale (RARCOA and David W. Akers, Inc., 8/1991), lot 523; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4-5/2009), lot 2415, where it realized $97,750,' per Heritage cataloger.