[ REVISED APRIL 2019 ]
Although over 13 million 1853 Arrows Half Dimes were struck from a reported 78 obverse and 80 reverse dies (Breen, Blythe), relatively few survived in Gem Mint State. As the first half dimes of the new, lower weight standard, these coins evidently went into circulation and stayed there, as any previously dated half dimes could be melted for more than their face value.
At the time of the sale of Jung’s first collection in July 2004, PCGS reported a total of four 1853 Arrows Half Dimes graded MS67. Today, that number has ballooned to fourteen, including three certified as MS67+. Of the original four graded MS67, two are now certified as MS67+, this and the coin in the ‘High Desert’ Collection, with the ‘High Desert’ coin my favorite by a slight margin. The third MS67+ is a well over-graded coin, that cannot honestly be called Gem. Additionally, the Pittman 1853 Arrows Half Dime, considered by some past cataloguers as a “Proof”, was last certified by PCGS as MS67 and deserves a place near the top of the condition census, followed by James Lull’s PCGS MS67 sold by Bowers and Merena in January 2005. Regardless of certified populations, there remains maybe a half dozen or so exceptional survivors of this issue.
1. MS67+ ‘High Desert’, PCGS #00000000
2. MS67+ ‘Knoxville’ – Jung, PCGS #00000000
This 1853 Half Dime has represented the Liberty Seated Arrows at Date type in two benchmark type sets. First, the ‘Knoxville’ Collection, one of the finest U.S. Silver Type sets of all time, followed by the Oliver Jung Collection (version one), sold in July 2004 by American Numismatic Rarities in a standing room only, single-owner sale of just 107 lots. The fields are lightly reflective and exhibit fine, parallel die polish lines throughout, and the strike is uncompromisingly full, with knife rims about much of the obverse and reverse, stars and dentils that appear in high relief, and Liberty’s head and exposed left foot, which exhibit every fine detail. While clearly not a proof striking, this coin appears to have been struck from the same die pair as the lone PCGS certified ‘Proof’. The toning is original and natural, in shades of golden olive and rose obverse, and vibrant blue, yellow, and rose reverse.
‘Knoxville’ Collection; offered by Jay Parrino (The Mint), June 2003 Fixed Price List of the Knoxville Collection; Oliver Jung; American Numismatic Rarities, July 2004, lot 32 @ $18,400 to Joseph O’Connor (OCNUMIS).
3. MS67 Pittman, PCGS #00000000