1836 Half Dollar with Reeded Edge

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Eduard, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter** Supporter

    The 1836 half dollar with reeded edge marked the transition in half dollar coinage from use of a lettered edge, over to a design with a conventional reeded edge, as already in use in the smaller denomination silver coinage.
    First mintage of the new half dollar design was fleeting - only an estimated 1200+ pieces (+ 20 proofs) are recorded as being minted that year. Although sometimes described as patterns, the issue obviously entered circulation, as evidence by this example in my collection.

    Here some more details on this coinage, as well as the historical context surrounding it (as extracted from the Web - CoinResource):

    Capped Bust Reeded Edge Half Dollars 1836-39

    " Across the Atlantic, the Victorian Age was about to dawn in England. Out west, the Alamo fell to a Mexican army led by General Santa Ana. Then, less than seven weeks later, the Mexican commander himself was vanquished at the Battle of San Jacinto, leading to the establishment of the new Republic of Texas. The year was 1836, and though world events moved at a slower pace than they do today, it was nonetheless a time of major developments both globally and domestically".

    "The Mint struck 1,200+ half dollars on its new steam press in 1836, and these are among the first U.S. coins made for circulation in this fashion. These half dollars, plus an additional 8,747,792 minted from 1837 to 1839, carried a modified version of the Capped Bust design used on the fifty-cent piece since 1807. However, they are distinguishable at once, for whereas the earlier issues had lettering on the edges bearing their statement of value, the new coins had reeded edges like the smaller silver coins".

    The first reeded-edge half dollars were very close in appearance to the Capped Bust halves that preceded them. The portrait of Liberty on the obverse and the eagle figure on the reverse were basically the same as those fashioned three decades earlier by engraver John Reich, but both sides also revealed subtle refinements by a new Mint engraver, Christian Gobrecht. Among other things, the thirteen stars on the obverse were reduced in size, Liberty was slenderized, E PLURIBUS UNUM was removed, and the statement of value was modified: Instead of saying 50 C. like its predecessor, the new coin read 50 CENTS in 1836 and 1837 and HALF DOL. thereafter. In 1838, Gobrecht made other changes, using larger and heavier lettering and tinkering with details like the eagle's talons and feathers.

    "Strictly speaking, the reeded-edge half dollars dated 1836 are patterns, since the legislation authorizing this coinage didn't win passage until January 18, 1837. They're widely viewed as regular issues, though, since most of them were placed in circulation. Shortly thereafter, the very first branch-mint half dollars came into being at New Orleans and promptly joined the roster of great U.S. rarities. Just twenty pieces, all proofs, were struck early in 1839 bearing the date 1838; they carry an "O" mintmark above the date. These are the only proofs in this short series. New Orleans made halves again dated 1839, this time in numbers approaching 179,000. Output at the main mint in Philadelphia was in the millions annually from 1837 through 1839".

    Your comments and opinions as always are very much appreciated.



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  3. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    Sheesh, another great coin!

    Are you hiding them (in Germany, since I understand that they may take them away)?

    Your items are always fun to see.

    Thanks for posting.
  4. 900fine

    900fine doggone it people like me

    I like it. I like it a lot. :)
  5. mark_h

    mark_h Somewhere over the rainbow

    Great coin Eduard! Love it.
  6. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Belongs in the Exhibit Museum! Great post. I need to add one or two posts to the Exhibit list in my sig.

  7. bqcoins

    bqcoins Olympic Figure Skating Scoring System Expert

    Beautiful, absolutely stunning. thanks for sharing eduard.
  8. jello

    jello Not Expert★NormL®

    Great post !!!
  9. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder

    Lovely coin and good reading, Eduard.
  10. CappedBustDimes

    CappedBustDimes Senior Member

    Below is an article I had written a few years back for my YN project that I presented to the our local club. It has since been published in a few other numis. rags and specialist journals.


    One of the most interesting American coins of the nineteenth century is the 1836 reeded-edge half dollar. Because of confusion that exists over this special coinage, misinformation sometimes appears in auction catalogs and numismatic articles. It was not a pattern nor was it struck in .900 fine silver.

    The genesis of this coin began in the late 1820s when Engraver William Kneass and Coiner Adam Eckfeldt collaborated to bring far-reaching changes to the coinage. In particular Eckfeldt had been experimenting with the “closed collar.” Prior to 1828 all U.S. coins had been struck in an open collar which did little more than center the planchet between the upper and lower dies before striking.

    In an open collar the finished coin was usually slightly out-of-round although this normally cannot be seen by the naked eye. The coins also varied in diameter among pieces of the same denomination because a stronger blow from the dies meant a slightly wider specimen.

    The new concept of the closed collar meant that the planchet dropped inside a perfectly round collar, just barely larger than the planchet; when the dies now came together the planchet was forced into the grooves of the collar, creating not only the reeding on the edge, but a perfectly round coin. The same concept is still used on modern coining presses.

    The dies for the new half dollars of 1836 were almost certainly engraved by Christian Gobrecht although William Kneass may have had a part in the work prior to his stroke in August of that year. There are several minor changes, in addition to the obvious one of size, but the overall effect of the revised design is much more pleasing to the eye than the original Reich artwork of 1807, still in use during 1836.

    The reverse eagle on the new half dollar is much better modelled than the old one. It has an elegant tone compared to the more rustic version of 1807. In a similar vein, the obverse bust is more refined, though this is difficult to describe precisely in words. In addition to the obvious changes of size and reeded edge, the new half dollar is important from an historical viewpoint…

    Robert Maskell Patterson, who served as director of the mint from 1835 through 1851, believed that the motto “E Pluribus Unum” was an anachronism that did not belong on the coinage. As far as he was concerned it meant the same as “United States of America” and had no place on our money. (His predecessor, Samuel Moore, was of the same opinion and for this reason the motto was removed from the coins as quickly as possible in the 1820s and 1830s.)

    Prior to research done by Walter Breen in the 1950s, it was believed that the 1836 reeded-edge half dollar was actually a pattern that had been accidentally released into circulation. Breen found documentary evidence that these were struck in November and December 1836 but thought that they had been made at .900 fineness instead of the legal .8924+. (The mistake was later corrected in his encyclopedia of U.S. coins.)

    The belief that these pieces are patterns was, however, firmly fixed by the 1913 Adams-Woodin reference on pattern coins as well as the Judd book of recent times. Both list this coin as a pattern and nothing else.

    There is little documentary material to be found in the National Archives on this special coinage. The only direct evidence is a letter written on November 8, 1836, by Director Patterson to Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury; it was stated that the coiner had just finished striking the first reeded-edge half dollars. Ten specimens were enclosed for the Secretary and President Andrew Jackson.

    Some researchers have assumed that these 10 coins were proofs but this cannot be the case. Until 1894 all proof coins were struck on a screw press and Patterson was clearly indicating that coinage of half dollars with a reeded edge had begun on the new steam press. It would have been pointless to send proof coins to announce regular coinage.

    The only other documentary evidence for such coinage, and this purely by inference, is that there was no half dollar coinage in October 1836. This would seem to indicate that mint officers intended to change over the coinage of half dollars completely to the reeded edge beginning with the November mintage. The half dollar in 1836 was still the most important silver coin and the lack of October coinage is a telling point.
    There were 738,000 halves delivered by the coiner in November, followed by 1,034,200 in December. In the past, researchers had only the Breen figure for December (he did not print the October or November deliveries) and concluded that the “extra” 1,200 pieces constituted the entire coinage of reeded edge half dollars for 1836. However, assuming that the December figure includes all of the reeded-edge pieces, it could just as easily be 2200, 3200, or 4200.

    On the other hand, if the entire coinage of 1836 reeded-edge pieces is included in the November totals, then the correct figure may be 3,000 or something in that neighborhood. We simply do not know and probably never will, but the traditional figure of 1,200 does seem low in view of the number of known specimens. It was the usual practice in 1836 to deliver an even number of coins each month but it is also possible that the coiner delivered whatever else was on hand in December.

    Once Breen had published his information, there arose fresh confusion because it was now thought that the coins were struck according to a later standard for silver, adopted by Congress in January 1837. Prior to that time U.S. silver coins had been struck at a fineness of .8924+ but in 1837 this was changed to .900. (The lower fineness had been enacted by Congress in April 1792, prior to the first silver coinage.)
    At the same time that the fineness was raised in 1837, the weights of the silver coins were proportionally reduced, the amount of fine silver being left undisturbed. The half dollar, for example, dropped from 208 to 206.25 grains in gross weight.

    In the 1970s, as a result of new research, it was learned that the 1836 reeded-edge half dollars were actually struck at the old fineness and not that adopted in January 1837. This discovery has a number of side-effects for collectors, but perhaps the most interesting is that this coin is needed for the complete type set of U.S. coins. The 1837 half dollars, while of the same design, have both a different fineness and weight standard.

    As noted above, Mint Director R. M. Patterson had planned a large issue of the 1836 reeded-edge halves beginning in November 1836 but this was not carried out. (In March 1836 the Mint had managed to mechanize its coining presses with the introduction of steam power but it took several months to work out all the mechanical problems connected with the changeover from the old screw presses.)

    It seems likely, based on research of the past few years, that the problem which defeated mass coinage in 1836 of the reeded-edge halves was the collar itself. Apparently the planchets were not seating properly inside the collar and the finished coins frequently had incomplete reeding on the edge. This particular difficulty was not solved until early February 1837.

    Those collectors who wish to purchase one of these pieces will pay well for the privilege, especially in the upper grades. The latest issue of Coin Prices shows that even in G–4 the value is estimated at $1200 while in F–12 this jumps to $3600. In XF–40 the estimate reaches $6600 and in MS–60 it is $19000. It is unpriced in MS–65, well testifying to its rarity at that exalted level of condition.

    Proofs exist of the 1836 reeded-edge half dollar, but are all extremely rare and bring very high prices when offered for sale. Breen reports that 12 were known to him in the mid-1980s, some no doubt impounded in museums or old-time collections unlikely to come on the market in the near future.

    Although other coins from the 1830s were restruck under Mint Director James Ross Snowden in the 1850s, the 1836 reeded-edge half dollar was not among them. Considering that this coin has long been in demand by serious collectors, the omission is curious.
  11. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter** Supporter

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Treashunt, not to worry: there is indeed some concern in Germany among collectors and sellers of coins regarding possible legal problems, but this is restricted to ancient coins, specially if their provenance cannot be documented. My U.S coins are SAFE.

    Back on the topic of the 1836 Reeded Edge. Thank you VERY MUCH CappedBustDimes for your excellent article on the 1836 Reeded Edge Half! true numismatic research. I believe I had come upon your article while researching the issue, and was very much impressed.

    I note specially the questions and uncertainty surrounding the numbers actually struck: the figure of approx. 1200 originated by Breen does indeed seem too low if one considers the number of auction apperances of this issue. It is a scarce rather than rare issue. It remains however, as you point out, a historically significant issue.

    When i purchased this coin, I debated for a while whether to pursue the 1815 Capped Bust half (a recognized rarity), or this, the 1836 Reeded Edge. I decided finally to go for the 1836.

    Once again thanks for your comments.

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