In Appreciation of the Proof Barber Half (1892-1915)
I've always loved proof Barber's. They are gorgeous coins in proof, and represent unique snapshots in time from an era that had a monumental impact on America: The Columbian Exposition, the first powered flight by the Wright brothers, the Great San Francisco earthquake, the rise of the automobile and mass production, Teddy Roosevelt! The USA was quickly setting the stage to be a superpower later in the century. It is still unfathomable to me that the Wright brothers flew their spruce and cloth airplane in 1903, and we landed only 66 years later on the moon! All of this was happening as the mint produced the Barber coinage. The design was generally panned at the time, but it has aged extremely well and looks very classic now.
The way the originally toned big coins hit the light, all candy colored.....They are hard to resist. One can imagine a run of Barber proof sets being found in an old dusty attic, still wrapped in mint tissue paper. What a find that would be.
Maybe some original proof sets are still out there? Where are they? Show them if you got them!
The sad fact is, the majority of original proof sets were broken up, and typically scrubbed with baking soda, leaving very few original, stellar survivors. Breen in his Encyclopedia of Proof Coins typically issues the blanket statement on Barber proofs: "Many have been ruined by cleaning". And today, that proves true....The total populations for PF-67 and above Barber halves can usually be counted on one or two hands.
I recently reached 75% completion on the PCGS Proof Barber .50c Registry (24 coins total for the set). I hope to have it completed at some point in 2021 although I still have 6 coins to add including the 1902, 1907, 1908 among others. These three dates in particular seem slightly tougher than the rest. (I'd be interested to hear from other collectors re: those dates and the difficulty in finding). All coins in the set are PCGS/CAC.
There is pretty stout competition at the top. Bob Simpson had an amazing set which is now being sold off, DL Hansen is in #1 currently with a set that is likely technically unbeatable, Perfection, Bruce Scher, the Pinnacle/ Kervorkian Set....All these guys clearly have been gunning for the top spot, and have assembled some really amazing coins.
My set currently resides in a rather inauspicious 10th place on the PCGS Registry and has a GPA of 67.50. If I can complete the set, and maintain the GPA at 67.50, I would land in the #4 spot on the registry, just underneath the #3 Hansen Set. (He has 3 complete sets of Proof Barber halves for goodness sakes! A man after my own heart.) If I can increase the GPA slightly to 67.67, that would land the set in the #3 position, just behind the stunning golden cameo's of the Kervorkian set @ 68.06 GPA, and the unmatchable #1 Hansen set @ 68.70 GPA. My 2 cents....It is a challenging set in the current market and very few coins with the right combination of originality, grade, price and eye-appeal are available.
1901 PF 67+CAM
1903 PF 67+
1904 PF 67+
1913 PF 67+
1914 PF 67+
1915 PF 67+