1878 Proof Half Dollar: Type 1 Reverse
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by Frank M. Zapushek,
There is nothing new to be discovered. Everything that was minted has
been examined many times. After years of examining coins for varieties,
there are no new discoveries to be found. Variety Collecting is a waste of
time and energy.
These are statements that I have heard from dealers and collectors over
the years. But there is one other statement that these people need to
remember: “If you believe that man can not fly, he can’t.”
Nothing has ever been done by those who believe it can not be done. Only
the dreamers and those that believe it can be done have found a way to make
their dream a reality.
For those none believers, I have just one thing to say. Maybe you should
start believing in Santa Claus again. Life was much more carefree and you
made new discoveries every day when you believed in Santa Claus. You found
new experiences everyday in school and when playing with others your age.
I am a believer (dreamer) and will always be a believer. Maybe that is
why I was so lucky on January 21, 2003.
Three days after purchasing a proof 1878 Liberty Seated half dollar, and
hours of examining the coin, my heart stopped. This coin had the wrong
reverse. Could it be, is it possible? Is it a new discovery, a rare find, or
just something that is so common that no one talks about it? A Type 1
reverse on a proof 1878 half dollar. I was on cloud 9.
First I checked all the reference books and found nothing but a mention
of a possible 1878 Proof with a Type 1 reverse.
Next I took both macro and micro photographs of the coin. After the film
was developed, I sent about 13 different photographs to Mr. Randy Wiley. Mr.
Wiley is coauthor of “The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars”.
About a week later, Mr. Wiley called to inform me that I had made a major
new discovery. The coin was the first known specimen with a Type 1 reverse.
Talk about a natural adrenaline flow. I was on cloud 9 again, walking so
high that the air was thin and made me dizzy. Or should I say dizzier than
normal. After all, I do look for things that will never be found.
Over the next few weeks, my wife and I were doing TV, radio and newspaper
interviews with reporters from around the world. Including Fox News Network,
CNN, Good Morning America all major TV networks.
It was amazing to my wife and I that there was such an interest in our
new discovery. Little did we know that our discovery would be a shot in the
arm for the hobby. Many dealers have told me that the traffic in their shops
have increased since our news hit the airways. People are going to coin
shows that have never collected coins in their life.
All over a coin that had been minted 125 years before the discovery. How
many none believers have owned or sold this coin in the last 125 years.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. If no place else put in the hearts
and minds of believers. Believers can be 3 years old or 100 years old. The
only requirement necessary is that they believe it is possible.
Now to some facts about the “Discovery Coin”.
In 1876, the Mint wanted to strengthen some of the weak points of the
half dollar. It is believed that Charles Barber strengthened the leaves and
closed the bud to sign his work. The new master hub was used starting in
Starting in 1876, the Mint used the Type 2 reverse with the well defined
leaves and the closed bud shown below.
The reverse of our coin has the Type 1 reverse with the weak leaves and
open bud. So we have named the variety after my wife, the “Bonnie-Bud”.
Such a small difference, such a major discovery.
Only 820 Proofs were struck in 1878, 800 were sold and twenty placed into
circulation. Only one obverse and reverse die is recorded for 1878 proof
With such a low production, the use of more than one die pair would not
have been necessary. Unless the reverse die was damaged or broke.
A die can have a weak spot in the metal and break on the first strike or
it can run the full production. The reason this coin has the Type 1 reverse
may never be known, but it does.
Two books I recommend for the collectors of Liberty Seated half dollars
are: “The Complete Guide To Liberty Seated Half Dollars” by Randy Wiley &
Bill Bugert and “Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial
Need to sharpen your skills or just enjoy reading good coin related
material, visit our web page at
http://www.bakercoins.net. Information for the beginner or the
Have a coin question? Let us know at a coin show or contact us. Frank M.
Zapushek, PO Box 1993, Bloomington, IL 61702-1993