Half dime from 1792 could sell for $500,000


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -A high-grade 1792 half dime, one of what are believed to be the first coins minted by the U.S., likely will sell for $500,000 to $2 million when it is auctioned Thursday, an auction company said.

The half dime, or “disme” as it was originally spelled, is in exceptional condition and will be sold at the Central States Numismatic Society convention, said Mark Borckardt, senior cataloger for Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, which is selling the coin.

Of the few hundred 1792 half dimes believed to still exist, “it’s probably the finest one known,” said John Pack, auction director for American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, N.H.

Producing the coins was important to the early history of the United States, said Richard Doty, numismatics curator of the Smithsonian Institution.

“Coinage is an attribute of sovereignty,” he said. “This is a literal manifestation of sovereignty.”

The coins are thought to have been struck on silver provided by George Washington, Doty said.

“You could make a very good case for this being the most important coin ever produced by the government,” Borckardt said.

The coin being sold Thursday might have been pressed twice to enhance the details, which are much sharper than on other coins, Borckardt said. The tiny piece, mottled blue, gray and gold with time, depicts a female Liberty figure with flowing hair on the front and an eagle on the back.

The Professional Coin Grading Service designated it a “specimen strike,” meaning it likely was made as a presentation piece. The catalog description speculates the coin was “perhaps a special gift to a friend of the U.S. or even to George Washington himself.”

Two other half dimes will be sold at the convention, but they are badly worn.