If they gave awards for the best individual coin sale of the autumn collecting season, Brian Hendelson, president of Classic Coin Company of Bridgewater, N.J., would be the first nominee.
He has just accomplished a $1,985,000 private treaty sale of one of the crown jewels of American Numismatics.
It is the 1792 half disme.
Not only that, it is the finest-known example of it.
The Professional Coin Grading Service calls it MS68.
From an historical point of view, you cannot improve upon a pedigree that says the coin was once in the possession of Thomas Jefferson, who at the time the half disme was struck was serving the new federal government as the secretary of state.
That position in 1792 had responsibility for the United States Mint.
That put Jefferson in charge of American coinage.
Further, the newly sold half disme was owned personally by the first director of the Mint, David Rittenhouse, who passed it down through his family until 1919.
The current buyer wishes to remain anonymous, so we collectors might not ever know who it is, but Hendelson tells us what he can.
“The Rittenhouse 1792 half disme is a small coin with huge historical significance,” said Hendelson.
“It was purchased by the owner of The Dazzling Rarities Collection. He wants to remain anonymous while he’s assembling an amazing collection of the most famous and wonderful United States rare coins.”
If you read this statement as I do, the secret of who owns the Dazzling Rarities Collection will be revealed at some exciting time in the future.
Other names on the provenance are the Knoxville Collection, Steven Contursi, and the Cardinal Collection.
Hendelson acquired the 1792 half disme in 2013.
He has displayed it at the American Numismatic Association conventions in 2013 in Chicago, Ill.; 2017 in Denver, Colo.; and 2018 in Philadelphia.
Perhaps most appropriately, it was also displayed in 2014 and 2015 at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia home.
As President, Washington took a keen personal interest in the establishment of American coinage.
ANA Money Museum Curator Doug Mudd wrote this for the 2018 exhibit:
“On July 13, 1792, the first U.S. Mint coins were struck for distribution at the request of President George Washington in a basement close to the site for the new Mint … The coins were distributed by (Thomas) Jefferson to foreign dignitaries, members of the government and others.”
In the 18th century, the coins were of interest to dignitaries.
In the 21st century, they are blessed by celebrities.
Hendelson said, “One of the visitors who came to the display was Rick Harrison from the popular Las Vegas-based television show, ‘Pawn Stars.’”
Harrison has been no stranger to ANA conventions in recent years.
Founding Fathers, dignitaries, celebrities.
Coin collectors have always taken notice of these illustrious individuals as well as their coins.
Now there are 1,985,000 more reasons to pay attention.
For those keeping track, Hendelson has helpfully pointed out that the previous record price for a U.S. half dime was $1.5 million for this same coin in 2007.
What will the rest of autumn offer to top this?
It will be great fun to find out.
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