1836 50C Capped Bust, Lettered Edge 50C NGC MS61
With its original peach-gray patina, this is an attractive coin. NGC has graded 58 as MS61 with 301 finer. Collectors Universe prices this issue at $1,400.00 in MS61.
And here’s some insider information for collectors: it is a much rarer issue than people are led to believe. How could an MS61 coin at a truly reasonable price be scarce or rare? Firstly, let’s crunch some numbers. The original mintage of the 1836 Capped Bust half dollar was 6,545,000—a substantial amount of coins! NGC has graded a total of 2,142 pieces of the 1836 half, while PCGS has graded 3,242 examples. That gives us a total of 5,384 specimens graded out of its mintage of 6,545,000—which is a mere 0.08% of the original mintage. But where did all of those Bust halves go? To China. Please see below.
A chopmarked Capped Bust half provides evidence of their use in the China trade. Photo courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins Auctions.
In the early days of the United States, it was discovered that the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust dollars contained 371.25 grains of pure silver, while the Spanish dollars used in trade typically had 377.25 grains. Despite this difference, in the West Indies the U.S. dollar was traded at par for the Spanish dollars. Therefore, after exchanging them, merchants brought the Spanish dollars to the Philadelphia Mint as bullion for new U.S. dollars. The new dollars were then brought to the West Indies. In that manner, most of the early silver dollars of our nation disappeared.
After being traded in the West Indies, Flowing Hair and Draped Bust dollars were shipped off to China to trade for tea and other goods. After the 1803 issue of silver dollars was produced, no more silver dollars were produced for circulation until 1840. But then the half dollars started going to the West Indies. Writes Economist James Laurence Laughlin, “[A]lthough the coinage of the United States silver dollar was discontinued … a profit was still realized by importing Spanish dollars, because two half-dollars served the same purpose as a dollar piece did before, containing, as they did, as much pure silver as the dollar piece. And our silver continued to be coined and exported …” The export of half dollars continued unabated. Numismatic scholar Don Taxay writes, “On November 8, 1834, Niles Weekly Register reported that half dollars were being sold at one percent premium for export.”
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