Overton Acquires and Authenticates an 1817 over 14 Half-Dollar
In 1951 Overton purchased the collection of a Wichita, KS collector, E.S. Pratt. The collection included, in Overton’s words, “a sharp extremely fine specimen of the 1817 over 14.” Pratt said that the coin was part of a group of common-date early halves that he had purchased at a Barney Bluestone auction some years before. Overton was not then privy to E.T. Wallis’ announcement in the October 1930 Numismatist that Wallis had discovered an “extremely fine” 1817/4 half-dollar. Overton quickly set about the task of authenticating his “discovery.” He arranged for the coin to be examined by Charles E. Green of Chicago, Wayte Raymond of Montauk, Long Island, NY and William L. Clark of the American Numismatic Society. Each replied with a favorable review of the piece. Green apologized for his inability to recall the name of the collector who had shown him an 1817/4 some 15 years earlier, when Green published his Mint Record and Type Table of United States Coins (mentioning the “unique” 1817/4 half-dollar). The following original documents are included in this lot: 1. Letter dated February 3, 1952 from “R. Green” to Al Overton confirming that Green had seen the Pratt coin and was “convinced it is just what you said it was.” (Charles E. Green did business as “R. Green,” a salute to his wife, Ruth, who worked with him. She took over the business when Charles died in December 1955.) 2. Letter dated February 4, 1952 from Wayte Raymond to A.C. Overton saying that he had seen “one or two specimens of this coin,” including one from a California dealer, and suggesting that Overton send his piece to the American Numismatic Society to be photographed and authenticated. 3. Handwritten letter dated March 19, 1952 to “Mr. Overton” from William L. Clark on behalf of the ANS, saying the coin “seemed to be alright” while apologizing for an ANS policy that prevented him from issuing a formal, signed letter of authenticity. 4. Letter dated April 8, 1952 from Wayte Raymond to A.C. Overton, saying that he was “quite willing” to list the coin in the next edition of his Standard Catalogue of United States Coins but did not share Overton’s idea of value and would simply mark it as “very rare.” He added his personal recollections regarding the Los Angeles dealer E.T. Wallis and the coin Wallis uncovered in 1930. 5. Page 1 of a leaflet written and issued by Overton in 1962, announcing his acquisition of the Second Known Certified Specimen in 144 Years of the King of American Half Dollars – the 1817 over 14. Overton recounts his ownership and sale of an “extremely fine specimen “to Louis Eliasberg” in 1952.” He notes the listing of (the formerly unique) 1817/4 half-dollar in Wayte Raymond’s 1953 Standard Catalog and R.S. Yeoman’s 1955 edition of “theGuidebook.” Overton omits any mention of the source, grade or condition of his new acquisition; he emphasizes the significance of the absence of the prominent obverse die break on the Eliasberg specimen. (The coin referenced in Overton’s leaflet is the VF Meyer-Pogue-Link-Ross specimen, acquired by Overton in 1962 from a coin dealer in Oakland, CA.)
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Sheridan Downey, Numismatist 4400 Keller Ave.,
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