The Edward C. Rochette Money Museum collection now contains a 1792 Half Disme, thanks to the generosity of a California coin dealer.
The early American coin, valued at more than $220,000, was donated by Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, Calif.
“This coin will be a fantastic, historically significant addition to the museum’s collection. I can’t thank Steve enough for his generosity,” American Numismatic Association President Tom Hallenbeck said.
About 1,500 half disme silver coins were struck in the basement of a Philadelphia saw-maker’s shop in July 1792 because the U.S. Mint was not yet operational. The coins were the first authorized by President Washington under the Mint Act of 1792. Thomas Jefferson, who was Secretary of State at the time, personally received the coins on Washington’s behalf.
A half disme is slightly smaller than a modern dime and weighs half as much. Disme – pronounced “deem” – is an early spelling of the word, dime. Modern researchers estimate that about 275, in various states of condition, survive today.
“This donation was very touching. We haven’t received a donation of this caliber in many years,” Museum Director Tiffanie Bueschel said.
Contursi made headlines in December when he sold the unique 1787 EB on Breast Brasher Doubloon, which subsequently was acquired for nearly $7.4 million by a Wall Street hedge fund. He also sold the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, believed by some to be the first U.S. silver dollar ever minted, for $7.8 million in a private sale in May 2010. The silver dollar was on display at the Money Museum for several years.
“I have a background of handling the sales of some of the earliest U.S. coins, so donating this historically significant coin made sense,” Contursi said. “This donation is my way of giving back to the ANA for the wonderful things that they do for collectors.”
The coin’s condition was assessed recently by Numismatic Guaranty Company chairman Mark Salzberg. “I’ve seen several dozen different examples during my career – this coin is far nicer than most. It’s well struck and problem-free with just the lightest touch of circulation wear and rich patina,” Salzberg said.
The public will get a chance to see the coin on display at the spring ANA National Money Show, May 10-12 in Denver. Find out more at www.nationalmoneyshow.com.