Cancelled Carson City Half Dollar Die: Which Die Marriage?
by Bill Bugert, e-Gobrecht 2014 Volume 10, Issue 3 March 2014 (Whole # 110) …………
In late January, David Sundman, President of the Littleton Coin Company and Treasurer of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, sent me an email with the following information and images. This article is an extract of my research and answer to David.
Per David, “I thought you might enjoy these images of a Carson City half dollar cancelled reverse die, circa 1875 that I bought several years ago from Fred Weinberg. What is unusual is that it is lightly cancelled, without the prominent “X” through the entire design.
Fred described it as circa 1875. I was thinking that possibly you or one of your project participants might be able to tell me the year(s) it would have been used to produce coinage? My dream would be to obtain a coin that had been struck from this die—but realize that is like searching for a needle in a hay stack!
According to Fred Weinberg, this dies had been used by a Virginia City, NV family as a doorstop.”
Background facts: I studied the images of the die and determined that it is a half dollar die with a large size CC mintmark of the Carson City Branch Mint. As I detail in my book, A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Die Varieties, Volume II, Carson City Branch Mint, a total of six Carson City reverse dies with a large CC mintmark are known to have mint half dollars. These six dies were used during five years of coinage at the Carson City Branch Mint.
According to mine and Randy Wiley’s 1980’s research of the National Archive’s mint correspond- ence files, the Philadelphia Mint shipped reverse dies (presumed to be Large CC) to the Carson City Branch Mint as early as October 20, 1869 when two reverse dies were received. Carson City received other reverse dies almost yearly but a different size mintmark was not introduced in half dollar Carson City coinage until 1873.
The table below depicts in which years the large size reverse dies were used:
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼It is important to note that these large CC dies are all easily distinguishable by their individual die diagnostics and some of the dies were used in multiple years.
It was common practice for the Branch Mints to “reserve” reverse dies for use in other years as a Superintendent’s risk mitigation technique. Details of the individual die diagnostics are in my book. Of note, reverse die #1 was only used in 1870 while the other dies were used in multiple years.
Of particular note is the question, “is your half dollar die one of these six dies?” In short, yes it is! Your die has diagnostics that match die #1 (used only in 1870-CC with die pair WB-1A, die marriage WB-1 shown in the image at the right). Those diagnostics include the position of the letters CC on the die. Please note that a letter C logotype was punched into the die two times in slightly different unique positions to make up the CC mintmark.
To confirm that the die is the same as the die #1, I overlayed the image of the 1870-CC WB-1 mintmark on the die. I flipped the image of your die to give the same perspective as a coin. The following overlayed image shows an exact match in the mintmark position between the die and the WB-1 variety.
Also of note in the overlaid image to the right, the die has remnants of clash marks in the shield’s lower right and to the lower right below eagle’s right wing. These clash marks appear on all examples of this 1870-CC WB-1 die marriage.
Conclusion / Opinion: It is my opinion that David Sundman’s Carson City half dollar die (as de- picted in this letter) is the same die that was used to mint 1870-CC WB-1 half dollars. It is not currently known to have been used to coin any half dollars in another year. I am unsure when the die was canceled but it was the practice of the time for the Branch Mint to cancel all used dies.
In searching my personal files, I determined this die sold for $18,975 in a December 2003 Holabird Americana Auction.
Quite a nice doorstop, eh?