French Head Half Dollar Patterns
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-240, Pollock-296, R.5

The so-called "French Head" design, paired with a larger scale version of the dime "cereal wreath" reverse. Tall letters in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are consistent with Paquet's style, although the portrait is attributed to Longacre. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.

PR62 Brown $1,495.00 (Oct 22, 2009 HA.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-239, Pollock-295, R.4

Longacre's "French Head" design for the half dollar that features a bust of Liberty facing right, draped with a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY with a wide wreath of oak and vine on her head. The reverse has 1/2 DOLLAR in the center and is surrounded by a wreath of cotton, tobacco, corn, sugar cane, wheat, and oak. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

PR62 $1,840.00 (Jul 31, 2009 HA.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-237, Pollock-293, R.4

Liberty faces right with laurel and vine in her hair. A ribbon below the bust is inscribed LIBERTY, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around, and the date below. The reverse has an agricultural wreath around the denomination HALF DOLLAR. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

PR64 $2,012.50 (Apr 30, 2009 HA.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-242, Pollock-298, R.5

Referred to as Longacre's "French Liberty Head" design. A Romanesque bust of Liberty faces right, with a crown of intertwined oak and vine leaves. Around her neck is a scroll inscribed with the word LIBERTY. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA fills the peripheral fields with the date below. An ornate wreath of cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, corn, wheat, and oak leaves dominates the reverse, with 50 CENTS enclosed in two lines. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.

The USPatterns.com website opines that more than 30 Judd-242 patterns are believed extant in all grades. With approximately 20 auction appearances during the past 15 years and a combined NGC and PCGS population of 35 pieces (3/09), the USPatterns.com estimate appears to be accurate.

PR64 Brown PR64 Brown $1,782.50 (Apr 29, 2009 HA.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-243, Pollock-299, High R.7

Referred to as Longacre's "French Liberty Head" design. A Romanesque bust of Liberty faces right, with a crown of intertwined oak and vine leaves. Around her neck is a scroll inscribed with the word LIBERTY. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA fills the peripheral fields with the date below. A regular Type Two reverse die--with LF of HALF spaced apart at their tops--was used to strike Judd-243 and Judd-244 patterns. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

Pollock (1994) lists three confirmed specimens, including the current offering, as well as two other possible Judd-243 patterns. A review of auction appearances from 1990 through 2005, as documented in the Dannreuther-Garrett Red Book of Auction Records, identifies only two examples having crossed the auction block during that 16-year timeframe. Thus, the generally accepted rarity rating of High R.7 seems to be accurate. In fact USPatterns.com, which is the most current source of pattern rarity ratings, suggests that "about half a dozen [pieces are] known." Without question, this is a rare issue.

Pollock documented this piece at 192.1 grains, 1.198 inches in diameter, with a die alignment of 180 degrees.

PR63 $4,312.50 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-245, Pollock-303, R.7

Referred to as Longacre's "French Liberty Head" design. A Romanesque bust of Liberty faces right, with a crown of intertwined oak and vine leaves. Around her neck is a scroll inscribed with the word LIBERTY. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA fills the peripheral fields with the date below. Reverse: Paquet's Perched Eagle design with a broken ribbon held in the eagle's beak. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

The ninth edition of United States Pattern Coins by Judd groups the perfect ribbon and broken ribbon varieties, Pollock-301 and Pollock-303, respectively, under Judd-245. Both variations are rare. The USPatterns.com website comments of the current variety: "The 'broken ribbon' reverse die shows extensive die rust ... and is likely a restrike made in the 1870s. Over a half dozen combined are known in both silver and copper."

PR64 $3,220.00 (Jan 6, 2009 Ha.com)
1859 P50C Half Dollar, Judd-253, Pollock-292, High R.7

The design is, as Judd puts it, a "curious muling" of what are actually two obverses, the Paquet Liberty Seated with Fasces and the James B. Longacre (?--see below) French Liberty Head. Obverse 1: A homely, disproportionate Liberty is seated on a rock, shield at her lowered right (facing) hand and holding the top of a fasces in her left hand. An olive branch and three arrowheads lie--curiously so--under the shield. Thirteen stars encircle the rim. Obverse 2: Liberty with an elongated neck faces right, a scroll reading LIBERTY wrapping irregularly at the bust truncation. She has an elaborate floral wreath in her hair, and the tall, thin, stilted letters characteristic of Anthony Paquet spell out UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the rim. The date 1859 appears in exergue on both sides. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.

This is strictly a fantasy piece, with "two heads and no tails"--although therein lies a tale. Saul Teichman of USPatterns.com writes that "these were possibly struck in 1859 as an example of this was offered as lot 1185 of Bangs and Co.'s April 1865 sale of the Joseph N.T. Levick collection." Teichman adds the interesting comment that he questions whether the French Head, traditionally attributed to James B. Longacre, was really designed by Anthony C. Paquet, as the design here uses the characteristic Paquet letter punches. USPatterns.com estimates there are a half-dozen pieces known, but three are impounded, presumably permanently, in museum collections.

Similar Paquet-style letters, with tall, fat uprights, narrow letter widths, and tiny horizontals, would two years later be famously employed on the 1861 and 1861-S Paquet Reverse double eagles, regular issues although rare. This is one of the many patterns that may have been created as "trade bait" for the recently formed Mint Cabinet, as the period 1859-60 seems to have been a heyday of such activity, which had only recently gone underground.

PR65 $17,250.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
Source for information and pictures courtesy of  Heritage Coin Auctions
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