If you want a great value and a sleeper, although one that will probably not exactly wake up any time soon, the perfect coin for you might well be the 1852-O half dime.
The story of the 1852-O starts out with its mintage, which stands at just 260,000 pieces. Now, back in 1852, that was not a low total, especially for New Orleans. At the time, no one would have thought twice about it.
There is also more than a little evidence that half dimes were not exactly a local favorite in the port city. People were constantly on the go. They needed upper denominations for their voyages and not half dimes. The mintages of half dimes in New Orleans reflect this. For example, there was a mintage in 1844, but the next output did not occur until 1848. The 1844-O mintage was just 220,000, which is actually fairly close to the 1852-O, but the 1844-O is $80 in G-4, while the 1852-O is just $25.
The 260,000 mintage of the 1852-O says a lot. It is lower than the 1916-D Mercury dime, which is $1,000 in G-4, as opposed to $25. Of course, the demand for the 1916-D Mercury dime is much greater than the demand for the 1852-O.
A fact that needs to be considered, however, is that the 1916-D had some saving the first year of the design, while the 1852-O saw virtually no saving.
An additional fact is that the 1852-O might very well have been melted in some numbers. The reason was that the following year the amount of silver in all silver coins except the silver dollar was reduced slightly. The half dime went from .0388 ounce to .0362.
What we know is that there was some melting in 1852 and 1853. They were too valuable to spend.
It may seem unusual today to think about melting coins for small amounts of silver, but this was a different world. The small reduction in the size of gold coins in 1834 made all the difference in the world between being melted and circulated and a small change in the amount of silver did the same thing in 1853.
If the 1852-O is a good deal today at $25 in G-4, it is also a solid deal in better grades. In MS-60 it lists for $885 while an MS-65 is at $11,500. NGC reports only 28 examples in any grade and just 13 of them were called Mint State, with four making at least MS-65.
At PCGS they report just 30 examples in all grades, with 17 being called Mint State but only four making MS-65 or better. When you consider the fact that even if there have been no repeat submissions, the MS-65 or better total stands at just eight, making the price a bargain.
While the 1852-O is certainly a great value, you cannot expect it to suddenly rise dramatically in price, because there are very few half dime collectors. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look.