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Sheridan Downey Numismatist - Coins

Mail Bid Auction 51

Auction ends on February 15, 2021 6:00 pm PST

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Lot Number 106


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Overton's 1970 2nd Edition Brings Questions and an Erratum    


Overton’s 1970 2nd Edition was a much needed improvement to Overton’s 1967 Edition.  It included updated rarity ratings and described a few newly discovered die marriages.  Most important, it substantially reduced the number of so-called subvarieties that Overton considered noteworthy.  He was inundated with written inquiries from collectors who thought they had found an UnPublished variety.  The fledgling Bust Half Nut Club labeled any such post-1970 discoveries as “UPs.”  Not many turned up.  Overton had done a thorough job.  In December 1971 he received a letter from a collector who thought that his 1812/1 was “a new variety” because it displayed a double profile.  Overton responded:

The doubling of the date, stars, profile etc. represents a die state, NOT a die variety.  There are thousands of die states that may occur on one or many coins, but all are subject to being present or absent on a given variety.  My book defines the die varieties, does not attempt to define die states except in a few of the more unusual ones ….  Many of the die states mentioned in my first book, were eliminated in the new revised edition as they are only confusing to determining die varieties.

Yes, Overton’s characterization of doubled profiles as indicative of a die state is incorrect.  They are striking aberrations, having nothing to do with the state of a working die.  A doubled profile, for example, might occur on the first or the last coin struck from a particular set of dies.  Still, his point is well taken: die breaks, clash marks, die wear and the like help us define the state of a working die, not a “new variety” -- or UP.  Overton offered the collector (Mr. Utz) some advice:

If you do not have the revised edition you should have it.  It is as much advanced over the 1967 edition as that one was over Beistle’s book.  In fact all of us who study and collect the Bust Halves thinks [sic] the 1970 Green Book [the 2nd Ed. has a green cover] is well-nigh perfect for subject and will never need to be revised.

Perfect it was not.  Paul Munson, BHNC #2, wrote Overton in August 1971.  He called Overton’s attention to the photograph of the reverse of the 1815/2 on page 98 of the “new edition.”  Oops!  It was not that of an 1815/2 half-dollar; it was an 1814 E/A O.108.  The same photo appeared on page 97 where Overton described the 1814 O.108 die pair.  Overton’s acknowledgement, chagrin and explanation for the faux pas are set forth in his reply to Munson.

This lot consists of carbon copies of Al Overton’s typewritten letters to Mr. Utz, dated December 22, 1971, and to Paul Munson, dated August 28, 1971.

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Sheridan Downey, Numismatist
4400 Keller Ave., Suite 140, PMB 398
Oakland, California 94605
sdowney3@aol.com
(510) 479-1585

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