Single Finest 1907 Barber Half
The early practice of collecting Philadelphia Mint proof coins along with circulation strike issues of the branch mints contributed to the relatively low number of superb survivors for many Philadelphia issue Barber Halves, even those with higher mintage totals. This 1907 is an extreme example, as only this single coin survives in undeniable Superb Gem Mint State, evidently due to its somewhat random luck of being saved by a collector sometime in the 1930’s or 1940’s who collected mostly coins in the EF and AU grades.
Since its first modern appearance in the 2004 F.U.N. auction, this coin has been recognized as something special. Purchased by super-collector Steve Duckor, this coin was then offered in August 2010 in the sale of Steve’s set by Heritage Auctions. Even though Duckor’s Barber Half Dollar collection is regarded as one of the finest ever assembled, and included Gem examples of all of the rarest issues and a long list of ‘Finest Knowns’, this ‘common in most grades’ Philadelphia issue was one of the highlights of the sale.
Barber Half Dollar specialist Dr. Peter Shireman was the winning bidder for this 1907 at the Duckor sale, although he needed a little push from his wife, Janice. As Peter recalls :
Another great story about this coin is that it was one I really wanted from Dr. Duckor’s set. The bidding for this coin at the Heritage auction at the ANA in Boston in 2010 was going past where I was really comfortable, but my wife, sitting next to me attending her first ever coin auction, asked me if I wanted the coin, I muttered and nodded my head ever so slightly, she grabbed the paddle from my hand put it up, and voila, it was ours. Not just a bid, but a cut-bid. She caught on fast! Others watching found this mini drama quite amusing.
Aside from its status as the clear finest known 1907, this is unmistakably one of the great coins in the series. PCGS graded since 2003 as MS67, this coin is undeniably superb from every perspective, and was certified at a time when a PCGS MS67 grade was much tougher to receive. The dies are essentially perfect, with slight die polish still visible suggesting an early strike, and no die cracks or die wear evident. The strike is nearly full, with all star centers sharp, and only the problematic upper right shield corner on the reverse lacking full detail at its apex. Luster is frosted and unquestionably original, under perfect natural envelope toning of faint gold and pale blue at the centers, which progresses to faint green then rich amber near the rims.
Franklin Half Dollars and later Walking Liberty Halves with similar profiles have now broken the $100K barrier, and more of those will continue to be graded. However, the great coins in the Barber and Liberty Seated series, although significantly rarer, can still be bought for one-half to one-third the price of coins from those more modern series. While we cannot predict with certainty whether price levels for the more modern series will hold, coins such as this one, among the best Barber Halves, look like much better buys, especially at their current discount to historical price levels.
Heritage Auctions, January 2004, lot 2088 as PCGS MS67; Dr. Steven L. Duckor; Heritage Auctions “Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor Barber Half Dollar Collection”, August 2010, lot 3219 @ $50,312 as PCGS/CAC MS67+ #16398747; Dr. Peter Shireman; Heritage Auctions “Dr. Peter and Janice Shireman Collection”, January 2016, lot 5410 @ $51,700 as PCGS/CAC MS67+ #19806534.