Coin Profile: Counterpunched Platinum 1814 half dollar pattern

Heritage’s upcoming 2011 August Chicago Signature US Coin & Platinum Night Auction, to be held August 11-12, will feature the unique “Platina” or “P-Punched” Judd-44 1814 half dollar, struck in platinum. This coin was struck from the same dies as the O-107 variety, but in platinum with a lettered edge.

After striking, 33 backward letters “P” were punched into the obverse, and the reverse has “Platina” engraved in script in the space under the scroll. Of the three 1814 half dollars in platinum reported by Judd, only this specimen has the punched letters and engraving, making it unique in that regard.

j44 Coin Profile: Counterpunched Platinum 1814 half dollar patternThe holder describes this piece as the “Judd Plate Coin,” and it was pictured in earlier editions of Judd (who also previously owned the coin), though more recent editions substitute images of the test-cut Smithsonian specimen. The existence of the third specimen is more speculative and sourced to a Walter Breen catalog write-up for a 1974 Pine Tree auction.

It is almost certain that the 1814 platinum half dollar, unlike most of the other Judd-listed patterns for the pre-steampower U.S. Mint era, was struck in the same year as its date. A summation of the evidence is that the die state and edge lettering are consistent with an 1814 origin, and that the die state is less advanced than what is seen on a number of silver O-107 1814 half dollars. A more complete listing of the die state evidence can be found in Bowers and Merena’s Logan/Steinberg catalog from November 2002.

Beyond the die state evidence, the newness and relatively low value of platinum in 1814 would have made it a legitimate metallurgical test for the U.S. Mint at the time; the metal was not extremely valuable until the late 1800s, when it became established as precious. (When the United States made its first official platinum coinage in 1997, it consisted of the bullion series of platinum American Eagles.)

NGC chose not to assign a grade to this pattern specimen, though the Bowers and Merena cataloger rated it as “AU-50.” The numerous obverse punches have impacted the luminous reverse, and a staple-type scratch crosses between stars 5 and 6 on the softly struck obverse. As one of the great rarities in the pattern series, however, condition is all but irrelevant for this example, and the overall eye appeal is not bad considering what the coin is.

Ex: R. Coulton Davis; George Woodside; Virgil M. Brand; Dr. J. Hewitt Judd; Abe Kosoff (1962 Illustrated History Auction), lot 73; Pine Tree (9/1974), lot 1419; possibly Jelinski (per Seventh Edition of Judd); Auction ’88 (Rarcoa), lot 1845; 1991 ANA Auction (Bowers and Merena, 8/1991), lot 2619; Gerald Schertz; Russell J. Logan (1994 Private Treaty); Logan/Steinberg (Bowers and Merena, 11/2002), lot 2316, which realized $50,600. (#11150)

The coin is listed as Lot # 14001

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