Rittenhouse 1792 Half Disme

The finest-known 1792 silver half disme, once in the possession of then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and personally owned by the first United States Mint Director David Rittenhouse, has been sold for a record $1,985,000 by Classic Coin Company of Bridgewater, New Jersey. It is the highest price ever paid for any U.S. half dime, a denomination struck between 1792 and 1873.

The word “DISME” on the reverse of the 1792-dated coins is an early spelling of dime. The half dismes were the first coins struck under authority of the 1788 United States Constitution and the first struck by authority of Congress under the April 1792 Mint Act.

“The Rittenhouse 1792 half disme is a small coin with huge historical significance,” said Brian Hendelson, President of Classic Coin Company. “It was purchased by the owner of The Dazzling Rarities Collection. He wants to remain anonymous while he’s assembling an amazing collection of the most famous and wonderful United States rare coins.” The rainbow-toned coin (LM-1, Judd-7, Pollock-7), graded PCGS MS68, was recently displayed in the American Numismatic Association’s Museum Showcase at the ANA 2018 Philadelphia World’s Fair of Money.

Hendelson acquired it in 2013 and has exhibited the historic coin at two previous ANA conventions, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois and 2017 in Denver, Colorado. It was also a featured display in 2014 and 2015 at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia home.

In the narrative text for the recent Philadelphia exhibit, ANA Money Museum Curator Doug Mudd wrote:  “On July 13, 1792, the first U.S. Mint coins were struck for distribution at the request of President George Washington in a basement close to the site for the new Mint…. The coins were distributed by (Thomas) Jefferson to foreign dignitaries, members of the government and others – a calling card for the establishment of the U.S. Mint and an announcement of the new American Republic.”

“I received many compliments at the ANA show in Philadelphia from people who thanked me for exhibiting the coin again at the World’s Fair of Money,” said Hendelson. “One of the visitors who came to the display was Rick Harrison from the popular Las Vegas-based television show, Pawn Stars.” This particular coin remained with Mint Director Rittenhouse and then his descendants from 1792 to 1919. Subsequent owners have included the Knoxville Collection, Steven Contursi and the Cardinal Collection. The previous record price for a U.S. Half Dime was $1.5 million for this same coin in 2007.