US Halves are also Australian

One of my favourite coin collecting categories is ’19th century US’ and another is what I’m calling ‘Early Australian’ so I get a buzz from pieces that undoubtedly fall into both and the coin in the photos is a good example. It’s an 1830 silver Half Dollar in pretty good condition for its age.

The gory details are: “1830 Half Dollar Capped Bust and Lettered Edge, small “0” in date” in XF40-45 [Clasp and adjacent curl fairly sharp. Brow and hair above distinct. Curls well defined.] Check the photos! (And sincere thanks to the Whitman Red Book for the attribution information.)

This type of American 50 cents lasted from 1807 to 1836 with what’s known as the ‘First Style’ produced in 1807-8 and the ‘Remodeled Portrait and Eagle’ thereafter. Later, in 1839 when ‘Seated Liberty’ came along, the obverse design stepped away from the ‘revolutionary’ Phrygian cap style of Liberty – I always think of Delacroix’s famous painting (which it turns out was completed in 1830, sans cap…) but in the painting she also holds a musket and is charging…

Well, whatever… and getting back to the coin – this beauty hails from the heyday of whaling when vessels outward bound from Nantucket cruised the watery globe, practically independent but occasionally touching land to top up on vital supplies. Documented ports of call include Sydney and Hobart, as bases prior to daring the Southern Ocean or alternatively making for China and the Japans depending on where they were on the Line.

US sealers and whalers had established trade with Aussies from around 1800 and the colonists were more than happy to accept their silver – in 1823 Australian Colonial ‘public accounts were to be kept in terms of dollars’ and a dollar standard looked on the cards until a ‘reasonable supply of British silver coin arrived before the end of 1825’ (Heyde 1967).

So silver Half Dollars similar to the one pictured counted as currency in the raucous time of early 19th century Australia, probably being equivalent to Great Britain’s Half Crowns or more – whether or not the local government decreed so.

Early Australian collectors need at least one as a type representative I think, and there are quite a few interesting ones to choose from, too, so it’s all good!

Ah, but the price – well they’re not cheap, but then you get what you pay for, don’t you?

Happy Collecting!

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