The Judd-73 Conundrum

Posted on July 18, 2012 by

Judd 73 Restrike - PCGS PR66

Judd-73 is an 1838-dated Pattern for a Half Dollar.  The obverse was designed by William Kneass; the reverse by Christian Gobrecht after Titian Peale.

According to some experts, this Judd number was struck as an Original in 1838, then restruck repeatedly from the early 1850s to the 1870s.  At some point, the reverse cracked, and the cracks became more severe and more extensive as additional coins were struck.  According to pattern researcher Saul Teichman, no Judd-73 is known without cracked dies, though the description of the example in the October 1989 Superior Sale includes the notation “Struck from uncracked dies.”  Certainly, the die states with the more extensive cracking are restrikes, but assuming no uncracked examples are known, at what point does Judd-73 go from being an Original to a Restrike?

One test is the weight of the coins.  Prior to February 21, 1853, the statutory weight of the half dollar was 206 grains; after that date, the weight was reduced to 192 grains.  The problem with this test is that it assumes that no restriking occurred between 1838 and 1853.

Another test is the number of reedings around the edge of the coin.  Originals are assumed to have 143 reeds, and Restrikes of the mid- to late-1850s should have 146 reeds, and later restrikes are expected to have 152 reeds.  As with the weight test, the reedings test has its flaws: some pieces with 143 edge reeds fall into a weight range between 190 and 200 grains.

This conundrum might be solved if the following data was recorded for each Judd-73: high-quality image; obverse/reverse orientation (by degrees); weight; number of edge reeds.

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