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1878 Proof Half Dollar: Type 1 Reverse

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by Frank M. Zapushek, www.bakercoins.net

There is nothing new to be discovered. Everything that was minted has been examined many times. After years of examining coins for varieties, there are no new discoveries to be found. Variety Collecting is a waste of time and energy.

These are statements that I have heard from dealers and collectors over the years. But there is one other statement that these people need to remember: “If you believe that man can not fly, he can’t.”

Nothing has ever been done by those who believe it can not be done. Only the dreamers and those that believe it can be done have found a way to make their dream a reality.

For those none believers, I have just one thing to say. Maybe you should start believing in Santa Claus again. Life was much more carefree and you made new discoveries every day when you believed in Santa Claus. You found new experiences everyday in school and when playing with others your age.

I am a believer (dreamer) and will always be a believer. Maybe that is why I was so lucky on January 21, 2003.

Three days after purchasing a proof 1878 Liberty Seated half dollar, and hours of examining the coin, my heart stopped. This coin had the wrong reverse. Could it be, is it possible? Is it a new discovery, a rare find, or just something that is so common that no one talks about it? A Type 1 reverse on a proof 1878 half dollar. I was on cloud 9.

First I checked all the reference books and found nothing but a mention of a possible 1878 Proof with a Type 1 reverse.

Next I took both macro and micro photographs of the coin. After the film was developed, I sent about 13 different photographs to Mr. Randy Wiley. Mr. Wiley is coauthor of “The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars”.

About a week later, Mr. Wiley called to inform me that I had made a major new discovery. The coin was the first known specimen with a Type 1 reverse.

Talk about a natural adrenaline flow. I was on cloud 9 again, walking so high that the air was thin and made me dizzy. Or should I say dizzier than normal. After all, I do look for things that will never be found.

Over the next few weeks, my wife and I were doing TV, radio and newspaper interviews with reporters from around the world. Including Fox News Network, CNN, Good Morning America all major TV networks.

It was amazing to my wife and I that there was such an interest in our new discovery. Little did we know that our discovery would be a shot in the arm for the hobby. Many dealers have told me that the traffic in their shops have increased since our news hit the airways. People are going to coin shows that have never collected coins in their life.

All over a coin that had been minted 125 years before the discovery. How many none believers have owned or sold this coin in the last 125 years.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. If no place else put in the hearts and minds of believers. Believers can be 3 years old or 100 years old. The only requirement necessary is that they believe it is possible.

Now to some facts about the “Discovery Coin”.

In 1876, the Mint wanted to strengthen some of the weak points of the half dollar. It is believed that Charles Barber strengthened the leaves and closed the bud to sign his work. The new master hub was used starting in 1876.

Starting in 1876, the Mint used the Type 2 reverse with the well defined leaves and the closed bud shown below.

The reverse of our coin has the Type 1 reverse with the weak leaves and open bud. So we have named the variety after my wife, the “Bonnie-Bud”.

Such a small difference, such a major discovery.

Only 820 Proofs were struck in 1878, 800 were sold and twenty placed into circulation. Only one obverse and reverse die is recorded for 1878 proof production.

With such a low production, the use of more than one die pair would not have been necessary. Unless the reverse die was damaged or broke.

A die can have a weak spot in the metal and break on the first strike or it can run the full production. The reason this coin has the Type 1 reverse may never be known, but it does.

Two books I recommend for the collectors of Liberty Seated half dollars are: “The Complete Guide To Liberty Seated Half Dollars” by Randy Wiley & Bill Bugert and “Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins”.

Need to sharpen your skills or just enjoy reading good coin related material, visit our web page at http://www.bakercoins.net. Information for the beginner or the experienced collector.

Have a coin question? Let us know at a coin show or contact us. Frank M. Zapushek, PO Box 1993, Bloomington, IL 61702-1993

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