LIKELY FINEST KNOWN 1892 BARBER HALF
As the first issue of a completely new design type, 1892 Barber Half Dollars were widely saved upon release, and are now plentiful up and down the grading scale. PCGS reports over 85 coins certified as MS-66 or better, by far the highest total for the series, including 14 as MS-67/67+ and three as MS-68.
However, grading for this issue at the upper end by both PCGS and CAC has been sloppy. All three PCGS MS-68 1892 Barber Halves are included in the CAC Census as MS-68, including the coins formerly in the collections of Thaine B. Price (1997), John C. Hugon (2005), and this coin formerly in the Jung collection. Yet, both the Price and Hugon coins have significant issues which should have kept them out of the MS-68 class. Price’s 1892 Barber 50c, now PCGS MS-68 #10000576 shows a smeared fingerprint film over much of the obverse and central reverse, which is typically not acceptable for the grade. Hugon’s 1892 Barber 50c, now PCGS MS-68 #25636326, has a long staple scratch connecting the point of Liberty’s bust to all of the stars at right, an issue that would normally push a Morgan Dollar to the ‘no grade’ pile, and which was obviously missed by both PCGS and CAC.
A review of the 1892 Barber Halves graded MS-67/67+ by PCGS, combined with the shortcomings of the two other coins of the issue graded MS-68 by both PCGS and CAC, leaves the Jung – ‘Black Cat’ MS-68 above as the likely finest known circulation strike 1892 Barber Half. The luster is frosty and original, with a clean, rounded cheek, and few trivial contact marks, none of which are significant enough to command attention. A broad ring of rainbow toning blends inward from the obverse rim past the stars and into the fields, including vivid bands of amber, blue, green and violet about a lustrous white center. The reverse is toned overall, with rich blue, violet and golden green dominant, yet the colors clear enough to allow the frosty luster to glow underneath.
Finally, as a type coin, PCGS reports a total of 17 Barber Halves of all dates and mintmarks graded MS-68/68+, while CAC includes 16 MS-68s in its census for Barber Halves, including coins certified by both PCGS and NGC. From my notes, and including some nearly perfect MS-67s which have not made the jump to MS-68, this is likely one of the top ten surviving circulation strike issues for the type.
‘The Type Set’ by Oliver & Lish Jung. Joe O’Connor (OCNUMIS), privately, August 2021 to Laura Sperber (Legend) for the ‘Black Cat’ Collection.