1836 Capped Bust 50c, O.109, PR65 Cameo (PCGS)

Ex Garrett

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Overton 109 ~ Sharp spike on outer point of star 7. Reverse with olive stem ending at right edge of C.

The question of “Proof or not Proof” for many Capped Bust coins is one that may never have a final answer. Some argue a more lenient approach, based upon the contention that the early U.S. Mint lacked the ability to produce a coin similar to the Proofs that we know today. This camp denotes many early coins as “Proof” based merely upon some reflectiveness in the fields and possibly an above average strike. I argue for a more stringent standard, as many early coins exhibit the crispness of detail and strongly reflective fields that we expect when using the term “Proof”. As testament to the early U.S. Mint’s capabilities, this is one of the coins that I regularly use as an example.

There is simply no doubt of this coin’s status as a Proof. The fields are deeply reflective, similar to what we would see on any Proof Barber Half Dollar, and are set against lightly frosted devices, stars, numerals and letters. The strike is nearly without fault, with stars 6 and 7 the only weakness. Close inspection reveals a web of fine finishing lines throughout the devices, more notably on the obverse, indicative of a very early strike from fresh dies. The color remains exactly as it was at Garrett I (November 1979), with only a soft frame of amber toning creeping in from the rims.

PCGS reports a total of 50 Proof Capped Bust Lettered Edge Half Dollars of all dates and grades combined, including known duplication. Of these, 1836 is the most populous date, with eleven coins reported by PCGS, including all die pairs. However, I have also seen more questionable Proofs of 1836 than of any other date, coins with shallower mirrors and weak dentils. For this Proof, the Garrett 1836, there is no question, as I have never seen a Capped Bust Half of any date with the Proof credentials of this specimen.

PCGS #06641812


  • Colvin Randall (Mason & Co., October 1868)
  • Garrett Family (Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, November 1979: lot 328 as “Choice Brilliant Proof. A gem specimen.” @ $34,000).
  • Private New England Collection