A half million bucks for a half dollar? It’s a good deal if you’re talking about the super-rare 1838-O Capped Bust half dollar, which is up for bids at the Whitman Baltimore Winter Expo on November 14. The special half dollar, one of just 20 made as ceremonial strikes marking the opening of the New Orleans Mint in March 1838, could sell for as much as $500,000 during the Stack’s Bowers Galleries sale in conjunction with the popular Baltimore coin show.
Production issues and the spread of yellow fever hindered minting operations in New Orleans during the late 1830s. Thus, all early O-mint coinage is scarce. This particular piece, graded Specimen 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and given a quality seal of approval by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), is known as the Cox Specimen and is one of the finest-known examples in existence.
The specimen is traced back to famous collector “Colonel” E.H.R. Green, who was one of the great numismatists of the early 20th century. From there the coin was transferred into many other significant collections but has not been offered in public sale since the 1980s.