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1838 Half Dimes

Category:  Varieties
Owner:  Electric Peak
Last Modified:  1/16/2019
Set Description
After more than 20 years without any half dime production, the denomination was resumed in 1829 with a Capped Bust design similar to what had been in use in other denominations. That design continued on half dimes into 1837. In that year, the design was changed to Christian Gobrecht's vision of Liberty seated, holding a pole topped with a cap, and supporting a shield adorned with a ribbon with the word LIBERTY. There were no other design elements on the obverse, just the date. This is the so-called "No Stars" type.

For 1838, No Stars dies were used for the first New Orleans half dime production, but 13 stars were added around the figure on the dies used in Philadelphia. The stars would appear there in subsequent years at both mints through 1859. From 1860 until the end of the denomination in 1873, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA replaced the stars on the obverse.

Mint workers apparently had trouble punching the stars into the dies properly in 1838 and into 1839 and 1840. At least nine 1838 dated half dime dies had at least one star repunched, leaving evidence of the earlier punch(es). Some of those were paired with more than one reverse die. So there are quite a few fairly easily identifiable die marriages employed for 1838 half dime production. In addition, some obverse dies without obvious star repunching were used.

One obverse die also suffered severe rusting. Despite the damage, the die stayed in use for some time. As rusting got worse, mint workers lapped the die to eliminate rust pits from the fields (but left the worsening effects in the design). This had the effect of causing the stars to appear progressively smaller. By the end of the die's use, a few of the stars were almost completely eliminated. This is the so-called "Small Stars" variety. That die was paired with two different reverse dies, yielding Valentine's V-1 and V-2 varieties. The obverse is easily identifiable by numerous lumps on Liberty's pole-holding arm, even in the earliest stages of its use. That is important to note, because the grading services often mis-attribute early stage V-1 Small Stars coins as Large Stars, and sometimes mis-attribute other varieties as Small Stars. (In fairness, lapping of other obverse dies can make their stars look somewhat smaller than normal. But it is the opinion of experts in LSCC that "Small Stars" should refer only to the 1838 V-1 and V-2.)

Reverse dies used in 1838 are distinguished mainly by die cracks, clash marks, recut letters, and other defects that are evident in the coins. Valentine states that one die used for some 1837 coins was also used for multiple 1838 varieties, presumably ending its use after it had developed a large area of deterioration at AMERICA, from rim to wreath. But during the course of building this set, and examining varieties of other issues, I discovered that the specific characteristics (primarily a "notched leaf" under D of DIME) of that supposedly single reverse die were present on multiple dies, even one used at the New Orleans mint. So it appears that (at least) two hubs were used to produce the non-split buds dies used for Liberty Seated Half Dimes from 1837 to 1840. (It may be that this was known before, but it has never been published and has not appeared in the LSCC discussion boards. Similarly, I also discovered evidence that only a single hub was used to create all the split buds reverse dies used at both mints from 1840 to 1859.) However, also during the course of building this set, it has been determined that a single die has the notched leaf in its early state and no longer has that feature in later states, presumably due to lapping. Thus, more investigation is needed to determine whether there were actually two hubs in use at the time.

Set Goals
My goal is fairly simple: Obtain a nice example of every discernible die variety of 1838 half dimes. In some cases, different die states are obvious and obtainable. The Small Stars obverse is a good example. I plan to add such die states as well.

As far as die marriages go, the set may already be complete. But I do not yet have three Valentine varieties: V-1A; V-5; and V-9. My reasoning follows:

The V-1A simply has a different die state of the V-1 obverse die. It is recognized by a crack from the right rim through the two lower arms of star 13. That crack appears on all examples of the V-2, which uses the V-1 obverse with a different reverse die. Nevertheless, I would still like to obtain a V-1A.

Valentine says V-4 and V-5 used the same obverse, that V-4 uses the same reverse as V-2, and that V-5 uses the reverse of 1837 V-2 (which has the notched leaf feature). My observation is that the V-4 reverse has a weak notched leaf. So it is possible the same reverse was used, and that V-4 (and V-2 and V-11, all three with the same diagnostic clash at (DI)ME) came after V-5 (without that clash).

Liberty Seated Half Dime expert Stephen Crain has stated (On the LSCC message boards) that V-9 may not exist as a separate variety. Kevin Flynn's book identifies V-9 with a separate repunched stars obverse. But the only photo of it in the book shows only the first five stars, and they look just like those of V-11. As for the reverse dies, Valentine says V-9 uses the same one as V-5. So, the V-9 reverse may be in an earlier die state of the same reverse as V-11.

Slot Name
Origin/Country
Item Description
Full Grade
Owner Comments
Pics
View Coin V-1, Small Stars, Flynn Obv 1 Rev 1 Stage 1 Early UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-1, Small Stars, Stage 1 PCGS MS 66 PCGS graded MS 66
Variety: V-1; Small Stars, Stage 1

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-1, Small Stars, Flynn Obv 1 Rev 1 Stage 1 Late UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-1; Small Stars, Stage 1 NGC MS 65 NGC graded MS 65
Variety: V-1; Small Stars, Stage 1

This coin is essentially untoned, is well-struck throughout, and is highly lustrous. There are a couple very light hairline scratches that are visible in some lighting angles. Overall it is very pleasing.

I bought this coin as a cherry-pick from Stack's-Bowers at the Summer 2015 Baltimore show. The NGC certification correctly notes that it is a No Drapery type (as are all 1838 Philadelphia half dimes), but does not specify Large Stars or Small Stars. It is an example of the V-1 Small Stars variety, in Stage 1 of that variety. I paid a fair Large Stars price for it - substantially less than what gem Small Stars pieces fetch (including Large Stars coins that are misattributed as Small Stars!). But to be fair, in what is known as Stage 1 of the obverse die, the stars are normal.

The registry assumes Large Stars if Small Stars is not specified in the certification, and does not allow the user to change that.

Luster: 4/4
Strike: 5/4

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-1, Small Stars, Flynn Obv 1 Rev 1 Stage 3 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 SMALL STARS V-1 NGC MS 63 NGC graded MS 63
Variety: V-1, Small Stars

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-2, Small Stars, Flynn Obv 1 Rev 2 Stage 5 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 SMALL STARS V-2; Small Stars, Stage 4 (Blythe),Stage 5 (Flynn) NGC MS 65 NGC graded MS 65
Variety: V-2; Small Stars, Stage 4 (Blythe), Stage 5 (Flynn)
Ex: Eugene H. Gardner

Luster: 3/4

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-3, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 2 Rev 3 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-3 PCGS AU 55 PCGS graded AU55
Variety: V-3 (~EDS)

Luster: 2/2

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-4, Large Stars, Flynn Obv N/A Rev 2 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-4 PCGS MS 64 PCGS graded MS 64
Variety: V-4; Flynn Rev 2

Luster: 3/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-4, Large Stars, Flynn Obv N/A Rev 2 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-4 PCGS AU 58 PCGS graded AU 58+
Variety: V-4

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-6, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 3 Rev 4 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-6 NGC MS 65 NGC graded MS 65
Variety: V-6, Flynn DDO-003 Obv 3 Rev 4

Luster: 4/4

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-7, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 3 Rev 5 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-7 NGC MS 62 NGC graded MS 62, CAC approved
Variety: V-7

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-8, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 3 Rev 6 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-8; Flynn DDO-003 NGC AU 58 NGC graded AU 58
Variety: V-8; Flynn DDO-003

Luster: 3/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-8, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 3 Rev 6 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-8 PCGS MS 63 PCGS graded MS 63
Variety: V-8

Luster: 3+/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-10, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 5 Rev 4, EDS before Reverse Spalling UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-10 PCGS AU 55 PCGS graded AU 55, CAC approved
Variety: V-10

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-10, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 5 Rev 4, Reverse Spalling UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-10; Flynn DDO-005 Obv 5 Rev 4; Reverse Spalling NGC AU 58 NGC graded AU 58
Variety: V-10

Luster: 3/1

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-10, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 5 Rev 4, Reverse Spalling UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-10; Flynn DDO-005 Obv 5 Rev 4; Reverse Spalling PCGS MS 62 PCGS graded MS 62
Variety: V-10; Reverse Spalling; Flynn DDO-005, Rev Stage 3

Luster: 3/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-10, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 5 Rev 4, Reverse Spalling UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-10 PCGS AU 58 PCGS graded AU 58
Variety: V-10

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: TBD
View Coin V-11, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 6 Rev 2 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-11; Flynn DDO-006 PCGS MS 64 PCGS graded MS 64
Variety: V-11; Flynn DDO-006

Dies designated by Flynn as 1838 Obverse 6 (DDO-006) and Reverse 2 were use to strike this half dime, which he identifies as Valentine's variety V-11. The 1838 Small Stars obverse, Flynn's Obverse 1 (DDO-001), was paired with his Reverse 1 for early Small Stars die states (V-1), and with this reverse for the later Small Stars die states (V-2).

Luster: 5/5

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-12, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 7 Rev 5 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-12; Flynn DDO-007 NGC MS 66 NGC graded MS 66
Variety: V-12

This piece is a lovely example of its date and variety. It is highly lustrous, well struck, mark-free, and attractively toned.

This coin caught my attention at the March 2008 Baltimore Show, in the Aspen Park Rare Coins (Evan Gale) table. After scanning the bourse for potential purchases, it was an easy choice.

Luster: 4/5

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-13, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 8 Rev 1 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-13; Flynn DDO-008 PCGS MS 63 PCGS graded MS 63
Variety: V-13: Flynn DDO-008, Obv 8, Rev 1

Luster: 2/2

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-14, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 8 Rev 5 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-14; Flynn DDO-008 PCGS MS 64 PCGS graded MS 64
Variety: V-14; Flynn DDO-008

Luster: 3/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-14 LDS, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 8 Rev 5 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-14 LDS NGC MS 62 NGC graded MS 62
Variety: V-14 LDS

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-15, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 9 Rev 4 (Obv 9 = Obv 7, Rev 4 = Rev 5, i.e., V-15 is an early state of V-12) UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-15 NGC MS 65 NGC graded MS 65
Variety: V-15; Flynn DDO-009, Obv 9, Rev 4 (Obv 9 is same as Obv 7, Rev 4 is same as Rev 5, i.e., V-15 is an early state of V-12)

Luster: 4/3

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin V-15, Large Stars, Flynn Obv 9 Rev 4 (Obv 9 = Obv 7, Rev 4 = Rev 5, i.e., V-15 is an early state of V-12) UNITED STATES H10C 1838 LARGE STARS V-15 NGC MS 62 NGC graded MS 62
Variety: V-15; Flynn DDO-009, Obv 9, Rev 4 (Obv 9 is same as Obv 7, Rev 4 is same as Rev 5, i.e., V-15 is an early state of V-12)

Luster: TBD

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection
View Coin New Orleans, V-2 UNITED STATES H10C 1838 O V-2 NGC MS 62 NGC graded MS 62
Variety: V-2, Large O

As I dreamed about the beautiful Gardner MS 66 example of this issue, I saw this coin offered on the Pinnacle Rarities website. I inquired about it and asked for it to be brought to the Fall 2014 show in Baltimore. There I examined it, liked it, and bought it.

Luster: 1/1

Photo credit: Electric Peak Collection

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