Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Betting Man

In 1972 I was working at Lyle Clark in San Diego, CA, when an elderly gent came into the store asking if I buy error coins.

When I answered in the affirmative, he brought a pouch from his pocket and laid a very unusual S-mint Barber Half Dollar on the counter.
  It was a brockage – a coin with no obverse.  It had the proper reverse, but instead of an obverse design it displayed an incuse mirror image of the reverse.

A brockage is a mechanical misstep within the minting process, created when a struck coin is not ejected from the press, remaining in place while another planchet is stuck.  The unejected coin acts as a die for the second coin, creating an incuse impression on one side. 

An incuse impression exists when the design (devices or lettering) is sunken below the fields of the coin. U.S. coins normally exist in relief -- where devices and designs rise above the fields of the coin.

Major errors on Barber coinage are rare and the Half Dollar error coin in today’s story is presumed unique.
Now, back to our story . . . .

The fellow offering the unusual Half Dollar was about 90 years old in 1972.  He had worked as a teller at the Caliente Race Track in Tijuana in 1926 when this coin appeared at his window.  The bettor used his last half dollar to make a bet, removing this unusual coin from a special compartment in his wallet. 

The man was asking a firm $200 for the Barber Half sitting between us on the counter.  It took me about 3 seconds to agree to his price.  I had no idea of its current market value, but was willing to bet this coin was rare enough to justify its price.

Subsequent research and dealer consensus suggested the coin was worth somewhere between $1000 and $1500.  This coin remained part of the Lyle Clark inventory until purchased by Harlan White in 1976 as part of a large transaction.

The Barber Half brockage has since been handled by a number of well known numismatists and certified by PCGS.

In 2010, the coin’s current owner made these comments as part of an online forum discussion:
This Barber Half brockage is graded AU 58 by PCGS. Since it is a reverse brockage [ed.] there is no date, but it was struck at the San Francisco mint. It is struck on a planchet that has extremely smooth surfaces, no distracting marks of any kind, original mint luster, reflective fields and original golden brown toning.
Since this was a first strike full mirror brockage mint error, the brockage is extremely deep, not distorted and was struck completely centered on the planchet without expanding beyond the collar.