1916 &1917 High Relief Proof Half-Dollar coins & the Hermon MacNeil Proof Set manufactured by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia

By Seymour Wampum

Copyright © 2011 Bruce Vogel.


No portion of this article may be used without permission.

     To all those collectors of “Walking Liberty Half Dollars” whom believe there are no proof 1917 coins, I submit to you the following information. The following coins are legendary rarities. Because most dealers & collectors have never seen one, or do not own one, or know of anyone whom does posses a genuine example, does not indicate there are none in existence. Compare this thought to the oxygen you are now breathing: never seen any, I do not have any, neither do you, so there isn’t any. Many of these ultra-rarities are passed down through families, generation to generation, as was the “Hermon MacNeil Proof Set” of 1917, it was 59 years before it surfaced.

   All of the following is composed from a three decade long research of the U. S. Mint records available. Of the 12,292,000 pieces coined in 1917 at the P-Mint, I had to locate the records for 3 to 5 pieces, the task seemed difficult, but entirely possible, there are more challenging tasks.

   To begin, I need to give you the reader, some of the pertinent information concerning the 1916 design modifications. I will present this information as if you know nothing of the developments of manufacture, issue and presentation of these or any other proof, presentation, or master coins.  I do not intend to talk-down to you.

   The birth of the beautiful High Relief coins of the early 20th Century were a direct result of a change in manufacturing of dies and President Theodore Roosevelt’s artistic attraction to the beauty of ancient Mediterranean coins. A duplicating machine developed in France, the “Janvier Reducing Machine”, was employed to reduce the entire large one dimensional sculptured models to smaller sized dies. Philadelphia Mint received theirs in 1906 to replace the “Hill” machine which only provided a “basined” die which is a smooth, mechanically true curvature. The old style basined die was a nearly flat surface which received the central design by a hydraulic press, then letters & numbers were punched in separately by the Chief Engraver. 

    Proof coins are only produced on specially selected disks, on a  hydraulic press--one of two--in P-Mint Medal Room. By definition: is the coin a Proof, a Specimen, or a Master Coin? The earliest (c.a.1830) name the Mint used was Master, shortly thereafter Specimen then Proof. All three names are used within the Mint--in the Coiner’s Department records--this writer has seen. “Proof Condition designates a coin made expressly for collectors and other Mints, to preserve our coinage in first class condition for posterity. Proof coins are made from dies prepared expressly for the purpose, and--old style basined dies--are polished to a great degree of brightness. The planchets are also prepared expressly for receiving the proof impressions, being highly polished and otherwise prepared for sharp, even impressions.” 

    Found in a letter dated March 3, 1939 the P-Mint Superintendent could find no legal ability to strike and sell proof coins prior to 1860. Many collectors know of many pre-1858 proof coins beginning with the 1792 Half-Disme Thomas Jefferson presented to Martha Washington. “...we find no record of legislation authorizing the issue of proof coins.” The first regulation was issued by Mint Director dated March 8, 1860. However, 1880 Regulations for the Transaction of business at the Mints and Assay Offices of the United States: “Proof-coins and Pattern-pieces may be struck and sold subject to these regulations, when authorized by the Director of the Mint.” Similar wording 1888: “Proof coins shall be furnished for the current calendar year only, and of such as are struck during the year. No proof-coins shall be coined, nor dies executed, of such denominations of coins as are not coined for general circulation during the calendar year. Silver sets will not be separated.”                                                                                                          

   Proofing is a process. The matte process is used to produce a protective layer on the surface of the coin to prevent corrosion from the environment. The process was developed by the Japanese in antiquity, to preserve bronze art by adding a colored patina, to protect bronze statues from outdoor weathering elements.  The four coin metals we are concerned with: gold, silver, bronze and nickel (simplest) each have their own “rokusho” (ingredients) and different  processes. Concerning the 1916 and 1917 High-Relief half dollars both satin finish and matte finish are extant outside the National Collection: Smithsonian Institution.

  There are two 1917 groups: High Relief and Low Relief. Comparing the details of coins struck from High Relief dies of 1916 and 1917: The proofs “Scream Proof,” once you have seen one you will never forget. There is no question when compared side-by-side which is a proof and which is not. Extreme detail and no luster. The Low Relief circulation strikes display ‘soft‘ details compared to the circulating High Relief. The High Relief circulation strikes are ‘soft‘ in comparison to the proofs.

  The following information is necessary to define here so you can become familiar with the rules concerning proof coins by regulation of the Mint: Law of June 4, 1910  Amended Regulations concerning Medals, Proof Coins, Experimental pieces, Hubs and Dies. In short:

Section 3. “Proof coins shall be furnished for the current calendar year only, and of only such coins as are struck during the year.”

Section 4. “No coin of any kind shall be struck after of the year of its date...” 

Section 6. “On the first working day of each year there shall be defaced and destroyed in the presence of the Superintendent and Assayer, all coinage hubs and dies, including mother dies, whether of experimental  or adopted design, obverse or reverse...” 

Section 10: “All....proof coins shall be delivered by the Coiner to the Superintendent....accurate account...cost paid quarterly and year end detailed statement.     

Section 11: Experimental Pieces: struck only on written request and number of pieces by DM. If not adopted then defaced (by DM) and returned to Super., melted, receipt issued to DM. If adopted shall be returned by DM to Super. whom issues a receipt to Engraver for all experimental pieces.   

Section 12. “Experimental pieces of all kinds...shall be struck by the Engraver...”.   

Section 13: Engraver must prepare for Super. each month the number of Hub’s and Die’s and number of “Experimental Pieces” struck.            


                             1916 [608,000] + 5 satin proof, ? matte.

    1916 the Mint announced a contest for new coin designs, Adolph Alexander Weinman was invited to submit a design, he was awarded $2,000.00 in 1916 for his Half-Dollar winning design; ditto Dime. His description of his artistic concept is as follows: Found in a hand written letter sent from his studio: 441 W. 21st St. NYC to the Director of the Mint (Office was in WDC). “In my design for the Half Dollar I have decided on a full length figure of Liberty, and have represented her enveloped in the folds of the Stars and Stripes, progressing in full stride toward the glorious dawn of a new day, carrying branches of laurel and of oak, symbolical of Civil and of Military Glory. Her right hand is outstretched in bestowal of the spirit of Liberty to the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” “The design for the reverse of the Half Dollar shows an eagle perched upon a high mountain crag, his wings unfolded, fearless in spirit and conscious of his power. Springing from a rift in the rock is a sapling of mountain pine, symbolical of America.”               

     Weinman was confronted by intense resistance in reproducing his model to coinage dies by the Engraver Charles Barber. Barber’s  own Half Dollar design was being replaced which had been in production from 1892-1915. The first meeting in the Mint, just prior to March 29, 1916, all participants were assembled who were engaged to produce AW’s model to be made into the master die, all were present except Barber, no call no show. Failing health and an unpleasant disposition, and concerning all new designs were replacing his, Barber’s contempt was evident daily until his death Sunday February 17th 1917. This writer has found over one dozen trivial design modifications made by the unhappy Engraver. Letter from Director of the Mint (hereafter DM) to Superintendent (hereafter Super.) March 8, 1916 requesting artist to repair working models no later than May 1, 1916. April 25, 1916 first reverse submitted. End of May Barber made two reverses, one with burnished field, other modelled. Letter from DM to Joyce June 24, 1916: “...The model of the obverse of the Half Dollar will have to be made over and Mr. Weinman informs me he is now at work on it.” “....The reverse....as shown on the coins struck from the polished dies, are satisfactory. I can see no good end to be accomplished by having the models remade on slate bases.” ..... “P.S. The two Half Dollars received from you will be lent to Mr. Weinman; the balance of the coins will be returned to you next week.  Letter from DM to Super. June 28, 1916: pay AW $2,000.00 for half dollar design. Hand written letter from AW to Super. July 18, 1916: “...The obverse for the Half Dollar, which has been somewhat modified, will soon follow and I am more busy with the reverse for the Half Dollar.” [Paragraph] “I may say that I was greatly disappointed and find that the background on both the Dime and Half Dollar had been polished, a course of procedure which, permit me to say, will ruin any design. With a background that shines like a mirror it is impossible to eventually see the design and in my opinion makes the coin look cheap. ....” Hand written letter from AW to Barber July 26, 1916: “....I have made a change on the placement in the word ‘Liberty’ on obverse of the Half Dollar and the reduction is ready, but must have the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury. The reverse is now being reduced and will be finished tomorrow. I shall send both as soon as approved and cast in bronze.” “.....I request that the Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint be instructed to use the strongest possible relief in both coins (dime also) and not to rub or burnish any part of the dies.” Handwritten letter from AW to Secretary McAdoo Aug. 12, 1916: Sent 3 photographs of changed reverse. Mentions an earlier obverse change. AW says the first dies were weak, in lower relief than original design. “The background of field had been rubbed on the dies so the struck coin shone like a mirror.” “....I request that the Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint be instructed to use the strongest possible relief in both coins and not to rub or burnish any part of the dies.”

   Aug. 16, 1916 from Super. to Acting DM: Please send one of the hydraulic presses you are not using to NY Assay Office.

   Letter (handwritten as are all to follow from AW) from AW to Joyce (Super.) Aug. 19, 1916: ...obverse LIBERTY also IN GOD WE TRUST to be relocated...please send a lead impression from the die of cent for comparison to make any slight correction. August 21, 1916 letter from AW to Joyce: Enclosed is “...bronze cast of the final model for reverse...” revised upper group of feathers of left wing.

     Telegram Aug. 28, 1916: High relief dies sent to D & S-Mints.

  Letter from Acting DM to Joyce August 29, 1916: “Referring to the experimental coins now in this Bureau, and to those on hand at the Mint, I have to request that, upon being advised of the final approval of each of the designs, all such pieces be destroyed. [Paragraph] If you have lent to the sculptures’ any of the coins, please request their return to your Mint for destruction as soon as there is no further doubt as to the satisfactory conditions of the respective dies.”

   Letter from AW to Joyce Sept. 6, 1916: enclosed is check for $15.00 please send 20 half dollars and fifty dimes. “As a special favor I would request one copy of each, the Half Dollar and Dime, from the special lot which I understood you say will be struck for higher officials of the Administration. ....” No coins received to date, notification by letter Nov. 1, 1916. No coins received to date, by notification of letter dated Dec. 22, 1916. Dec. 28, 1916: Finally received 20 half dollars and AW sent another $5.00 for 10 more, which were received Jan. 2, 1917, he says: “...given as New Years gifts...” “...that the beads are not on the border of the new Half Dollars....”.

    Sept. 7, 1916 Telegram order from Von Engelken to Super: “Have Weinman come to Phila. to take up matter of fifty cent piece.... Director.” Letter from DM to AW (approved by Asst. Sec. Newton) Sept. 8, 1916: Come to Phila. Mint for conference with Super. and Engraver relative to the dies. Expenses paid by Mint. September 11, 1916 expenses to travel to P-Mint on Government Account: $8.45. Reply from AW “...Will be there between 11:00 and 12 o’clock.” Letter from AW to Super. Sept. 11, 1916: “Received from the Superintendent U. S. Mint, Philadelphia, Pa. two half dollars, one each from the last two models. Signature AW.  Sept. 16, letter from DM to Joyce: When Weinman arrives please explain the design to be in restrictions of our “mechanical limitations”. Have “Mr. Barber determine the width of the rim across the face with a view of obviating the fin edge condition, and that if possible you limit Mr. Weinman in his design to a specific depth...” As most “Walker” collectors know one of the 1916 “Experimental’s” is known today in private hands. A nearly identical letter is dated Sept. 7, followed by a telegram from von Engrlken Sept. 7. A letter from DM (Acting) to AW Sept. 23, 1916: “Cast of obverse is about to be delivered to P-Mint, please be present there while dies are made. Expenses paid.” Sept. 25, 1916 Expenses to travel to P-Mint on Government Account: $14.10.  Letter October 17, 1916 to DM from Super.: “The issue of the silver coins of the new designs will complete the series of changes on the coin designs. The ground of all these designs is uneven, which makes it impossible to produce proof coins which are distinctive from the regular coins made on the coinage presses from new dies, the only difference between proofs and the regular coins being the sharper edge and design.” Letter from AW to Joyce Oct. 18, 1916: Please inform me as to the progress of the new dies.

   Letter from Mint Director F.J.H. von Engelken to Super. Oct. 18, 1916: “I am in receipt of your letter of Oct. 17th. Effective at once, you will please discontinue the manufacture of proof coins.”

    Letter from AW to Joyce Oct. 21, 1916: “....I do hope it has been possible to arrange the obverse of the Half Dollar so that the figure of Liberty has not been reduced in size and height of relief. However knowing the keen interest you are taking in the success of these coins. I feel that the final result will be safe. I shall be pleased to receive the examples of the first coinage.” “....wish to make requisition for the payment of the sum of $2,000.00, due...” “....expenses Philadelphia on Sept. 11, Sept 25.”

  Letter Nov. 1, 1916: from Super. to Acting Director: “Hereafter when reporting coinages on Cashier’s Daily Statement, please report the proof pieces separately from the regular coinage.”

    Letter from AW to Joyce Nov. 10, 1916: “....that my design for the Half Dollar lead has been finally O.K.’d I made, on October 21. Formal application for the payment of the full account of $2,000.00 due upon such approval.  ...have not yet received this payment....”

   Letter: Nov. 11, 1916: to Super. from DM Set-up presses with new design, strike, retain all pieces in Coiners hand’s attach Daily Statement. Your opinion as how many pieces will suffice an inventory that will “to the end we may accumulate a surplus to meet the extraordinary demand we may anticipate after the day of issuance.”

    Oct. 17th: Telegram from DM to Super.: “Sir, I am in receipt of your letter of Oct. 17th. Effective at once, you will please discontinue the manufacture of Proof coins.” This letter testifies that there was a monetary loss to the production and sale of proof coins due to the bullion costs & labor costs versus the price sold for. 

     Letter sent from DM to Super. Nov. 11, 1916: Please send 12 sets of dies to S-Mint. Follow this with another 12 in a week or ten days. Or all 24 now if you can. To D-Mint 6 sets. 

    Letter Nov. 11, 1916:  Giving  “....Mr. Hidelt....the position of “Melter”. 

     Letter Nov. 11, 1916 from Super. to Joyce: Please send to me....12 half-dollars....” Letter from DM to Joyce Nov. 11, 1916: “...coins (10c) for the Secretary reached here in good season...Will you please send me twelve....Half Dollars.” Letter from DM to Super. dated Nov. 11, 1916: requesting the number of experimental or specimen coins charged to DM.

   Letter from AW to Joyce Nov. 13, 1916: Thanking for the expense vouchers for travel expenses Sept. 25 & 26. Letter from (Acting von Engelkin) DM to Super. Joyce Nov. 16, 1916: ship new half dollar dies to D-Mint & S-Mint. Nov. 21 invoice: Six sets D-Mint 12 sets (obv #7-18, rev #7-18) S-Mint Nov. 21 cost $60.00 and $120.00 respectively.

  Letter from ANJ Mr. Kunz to Joyce Nov. 24, 1916: AW has informed me there have been small changes to his design, one being a beaded border but this is not final, American Numismatic Journal wishes to publish photos, will you also send any information as to the minting of these coins.

    Letter to Joyce from DM Nov. 27, 1916: Mr. Malburn suggested a mechanical alteration to the presses so the high-relief half-dollars could be struck without being troubled with lack of uniformity on the thickness of the rim. Please send reasons in full. Letter from Barber to Joyce Nov. 28, 1916: Barber said the coins do not strike with an even rim, but are thin where the devices--head and foot--come near the rim. The coin design was strictly artistic, not for mechanical advantage. With the present design the problem can not be overcome.

    Letter from ANJ Kunz to Norris (Acting Super.) Nov. 28, 1916: Thanking Norris for the information that the only change was the beaded border change. You reader’s know the facts to that answer.

    Letter from Engraver Barber to Super. Joyce Nov. 29, 1916: Sent dies obv. #19-26, rev. #19-24 to S-Mint.  Cost $60.00. Invoice #81111. Letter from ANJ Kunz to Joyce Dec. 2, 1916: Thanks for information as to new coin preparation of the dies, the metal and the minting.

    Letter from DM to Super. Dec. 7, 1916: Please inform me of progress of design half dollar dies. I have a letter from Assistant Secretary of the Treasury asking for progress report. Letter from Engraver Barber to Joyce Dec. 9, 1916: “The want of uniformity on the thickness of the edge of the new half dollar is not the result of any defect on either our presses or methods of manufacturing coins, it is the result of conditions met with in the design. ....I may add that this uneven thickness occurs in the five cent and the new dime and from the same causes...”

   Letter from Director to all 3 Superintendent’s Dec. 16, 1916: Please use form 1028-A weekly for coinage ‘dies on hand’ ‘received’ and ‘Used in Coinage’...‘used in coinage’ that are unfit for further use’....”




1917 [12,292,000] + 5  (2 satin proof. 1 known matte proof) possibly 2 others, a.c.t.o. W. Breen.                                                                  

1)  Die pair 1 struck by Barber: Satin finish “Roman” heavily polished planchet, obverse die heavily polished, sun-rays 5, 6, 7, 8 (gone), 9, 10, 11, near sun almost gone. Crescent shaped lump on flag above elbow extending over arm (seen above), this connects to star. Wire rim runs from 3:00 to 12:00.  Die polish between (G)OD through (T)RU, base of U weak. No luster beneath yellow finish.

2) Reverse: Perfect dies. Polish above E PLURIBUS UNUM, from Eagles beak to base of pine tree. Pine sapling detail extraordinary, details on bark and pinecones sharp. No luster.

Scan: Satin Proof 1917 50c Walter Breen Certificate Of Authenticity, Chicago Pre-ANA, this writer was present. The coin is above, 1 & 2.

3) Die pair 2 struck by Morgan: Matte finish obverse perfect dies.  Two die polish marks before right foot. Extreme detail. No luster.

4) Reverse die polish follows rim from UNITED, E PLURIBUS UNUM, through sapling, base of mountain HALF  DOLLAR, AW. Extreme detail.  No luster.


   Letter from Denver Mint Superintendent to P-Mint Super Jan. 2, 1917: Sent 33 new half dollars which were from the first delivery of coins: Dec. 22nd.

   Letter from Acting DM to Super. Jan. 4, 1917: “...please favor the coinage of half dollars until the demand is met. ...” 

    Annual Report of the Director of the Mint (ARDM) 1917 page 23: Proof dies manufactured 46. This is the writers opinion: This is a large number of proof dies made, at a cost average $60.00 each pair, time and effort, and cost (80 cents) for coins that: “...was never made, never struck, do not exist....” a.c.t.o. many of yesterday’s and  today’s numismatic “experts”. Anyone can pickup an ARDM and see the proof. Back to the facts: 85 Master dies and Hubs.

     Letter from H. MacNeil to Super. Joyce Jan. 6, 1917: The new quarters are not out yet, included is a check for 20 pieces. Please send them from the first “edition”.  A letter dated Jan. 10, 1917 from Super. telling all Mints not to release 25c until specific orders from this office.

    A letter was sent January 19, 1917 to Super. from DM ordering the destruction of the “Experimental Dies” and requesting the “Record of Dies”. These are the satin proofs struck by Barber. The matte proof coins were struck by Morgan in March.

   Letter from DM to Super. Joyce Jan. 22, 1917: Ordering Engraving Dept. to fully cooperate with H. MacNeil the design change of obverse, do what ever he says. Letter from DM to Super. Joyce Jan. 30, 1917: MacNeil is working on new reverse for 25c.  Letter from H. MacNeil to Super. Joyce Feb. 2, 1917: Now nearly done with cast of bronze of new reverse, 3 stars from top to bottom. How is obverse design change? Make LIBERTY a trifle smaller and remove IN GOD WE TRUST from ribbon.

   Letter from HM to Super. Joyce Feb. 2, 1917: Another model cast of the obverse. Did Engraver finish the revised reverse die?  Letter from H. MacNeil to Super. Joyce Feb. 9, 1917: Obverse bronze should be finished next week. The third reverse is in Engravers possession. Will you have him send a lead proof of it.

   Letter Feb. 17, 1917 from DM to Sec. of Treasury: Death of Engraver Chas. E. Barber leaves a vacancy. I recommend that Mr. Geo. T. Morgan, Assistant Engraver, be used as Mr. Barber’s successor.

   Letter from H. MacNeil to Super. Joyce Feb. 27, 1917: I can be in Phila. Mint to see trial of last model at noon March 1, 1917. Also by telegram, copy on hand.10220. MacNeil was presented with a set of all 5 denominations in proof, 5 duplicate 25c pieces in proof.

   Letter April 13, 1917 from DM to Super.: “...transfer the mint mark from the obverse side of the half dollar of new design to the reverse side of the coin, for the reason that the mint mark as first placed had the appearance of a defect in the die, and was entirely too prominent.” 

   Letter June 16, 1917: from DM to Super.: “You are hereby authorized and directed to place in the Numismatic Collection of the Mint at Philadelphia, the following experimental coins from dies for the subsidiary silver coins, Three Half-Dollars, Four Quarter-Dollars and Four Dimes. The balance of the experimental pieces on hand are to be destroyed, Respectively (sig) Director of the Mint. This order (matte proofs Morgan) is not to be confused with the telegram order of Aug. 29, 1916 to destroy the “Experimental Coins on hand” of 1916, nor the Jan. 19, 1917 (satin proofs Barber) order. Letter from DM to Super. July 10, 1917: Authorizing the preparation of new quarter dollar dies. Today approved by Sec Treasury. The change was authorized on July, 9.

    Geo. T. Morgan modified the die again in 1918: check area around throat for incised details. This master die went unmodified until the slight changes of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.

   All of these problems and delays with the modifications of the Half Dollar--AW’s 1916 10 cent was far worse--experienced by AW pale in comparison to the delays that Herman MacNeil experienced with his 25 cent design. You could multiply the Half Dollar  correspondences noted in this article by a factor of 15 and come-up short, it was well over a year (July 9, 1917) and at least 50 modifications before the 25 cent design was authorized.

   Both AW and Hermon MacNeil were treated with such contempt and remorse by Engraver Barber that a few “Comp’s” were awarded. AW received his requested (Sept. 16, 1916) “...special lot...” of both denominations and are known in private hands today. Also MacNeil was given a presentation proof set which is partially intact today and property of the author, see the illustrations of the half dollars. The group of five extra 25 cent proofs, were given to MacNeil’s artistic friends living in France residing in University Bauxes of Arts, Paris.

   Herman MacNeil proof set: The Satin finish half (ill. 1 & 2) was part of the Hermon MacNeil set that was procured through Ira Reed in the 1930’s to a collector (Robert E. Lee) who’s collection stopped in 1942, then sold to dealer Joel Rettew in early 1976, whom sold the set intact in the following few months. Rettew flew W. Breen via  Air California from Berkeley to L. A.’s Orange County Airport on a Saturday to authenticate this proof set.

This is found on the front of an envelope with Walter Breen’s address printed on it.

5 & 6) The 1917 proof Lincoln Cent remains unique, the owner has a W. Breen May 1976 “First Coinvestor’s”
COA, the July 24th 1988 COA does not now accompany the coin. See Publick II (Pinetree) 1976:__. [Donald P. Lynch/San Jose Coin Shop, Rarities Group/Martin Paul, W. Breen. NB 89:71] Auction 90:1012 ANACS certificate (11/2/77)....2
small nicks... 1) Temple. 2) Shoulder... Die pair 1: This coin has a mirror edge (3rd side), a true diagnostic of bronze matte proofs, also rims are slightly thicker. No luster. Knife rim both sides. Imperfect G in GOD. Photos 5 & 6 by J. T. Stanton.



7) Die pair 1: The 1917 proof Buffalo from the H.M. set (ill.) has a die break from the top of L(IB) to rim, 6 are known in proof. Knife rim. Publick Sale July 1976 Part II: $1,100.00, Auction (86?) 83:1039   $6,600.00. No luster.


8)  Note crack from top of L(IB) to rim.



9)  Reverse perfect die. Knife rim.

10) Die pair 2: Obverse: Perfect die, evidence of second strike seen  L(IB). No luster.

11)  Reverse: Perfect die. Scratch at flank is on holder, not on coin.  Knife rim just like die pair 1.                                                  

     Dime(s) unknown/lost to date, 1 in H.M. set. Quarter Dollar from this set is cleaned owned by “The Beard” Kline a specialist in Standing 25c, encapsulated; 5 or so others known. Half Dollar 3 satin proofs known a.c.t.o. Breen’s NoteBooks. Five or so now known one is the Satin illustrated above, Matte illustrated above. First matte W. Breen COA 8/17/1972, second unknown date. Most of the above are encapsulated by several third-party grading services. In addition there are at least six 1916 and five 1917 (Miles:315) McKinley Memorial gold dollars in proof. Also 1918 Illinois Centennial half dollar in satin proof 2 known, several more in matte. Mint records have die pairs for both types of commemoratives in proof.                 

    Among other excuses, Engraver Barber repeatedly insisted the coins did not strike properly due to the high and low areas of the design, causing the obverse and reverse rims, near head and date to be uneven. His excuse was nullified in the following letter from DM to Super P-Mint Dec 29, 1916: “Enclosed 2 half’s from D-Mint noting clearness and uniformity, general sharpness of details, particularly the hands, breast and leg. The P-Mint lacks all these. Notify the Super. of Coining Dept., inspect these coins and make every effort to manufacture perfect coins at your Mint.”  In the end much of the problem striking--uneven rim, wire fin--was due to the planchet size. The dime was reduced (704/1000 disk struck to 52/1000) and all were struck okay. Fin was eliminated. Half planchet may have been also changed.

   Synopsis: The DM’s orders to manufacture the specimens exist, as do the orders to destroy the dies, also the extra coins. Also the placement in the P-Mint collection of 3/4/4 pieces. Note also in the Sept. 1916 letter from AW to Super. requesting the “special lot”. There are several other examples of letters and telegrams from the Mint to AW and Hermon MacNeil sending and receiving coins of unauthorized design. The most popular guide book among coin collectors has listed the one known Matte Proof “Specimen” 1917 Lincoln cent--Ken Bressett included this beginning in 1978--but unknown to all, the cent was the property of the late Walter Breen. Breen had an appetite for the ultra-rare, but never spoke of the accumulation he had due to two robberies of his Berkeley CA home “Grey Haven”, a.k.a. ‘the fish-bowl’. He kept his collection in his basement in a bowling-ball-bag; ?!WB in a bowling alley, NO! His large-cent and half-cent collections were of legend. Little information is ever seen on the other denominations except a leading price guide publishes a bid price. A leading third party grading service has a population report that has listed several genuine proof five cent’s certified. There are proof twenty five cent’s known incapsulated, notably the Hermon MacNeil piece which belongs to the set. There are a couple of High-Relief Proof Half-Dollars (above) known incapsulated also.

   Next proof set? A single 1918 Lincoln Cent is known with extreme relief with some of the matte finish worn-off--a circulated proof--in possession of this writer. Also the 1919 Mint Report (ARDM) has proof dies listed at 2 pairs: 50 cent Illinois, 25 cent, 10 cent, 5 cent, 1 cent. The Lincoln Illinois Half Dollars are known in proof. The search for information continues....                        

     All of the above information came directly from Mint Archives over several decades, nothing is fiction, there is more detail if you care to look for yourself. Also there is more valuable information from W. Breen which he shared freely. The 1917 date is less than 1/2 of 1% of the records I have seen. On a normal 8-hour day I review 9 cubic feet of records in Record Group 104. The majority of this 1916-17 article was found in one short 6-hour day in Philadelphia Archives, the balance was located in what was in National Archives W.D.C., but now relocated in Archives II College Park MD, ‘textile research room 200’ 15-hours. Walter Breen also supplied this writer with information which is included here. There are no “on-line records” included.

   The satin proof of 1917 made in January with highly polished dies (illustrated above: 1, 2) and a polished planchet was nearly one of the last coins struck by Barber. Considering Barber’s contempt for the design, one could easily assume he made the satin (burnished) proof in spite, he did. He certainly did all he could to prevent the P-Mint from producing “perfect coins” for circulation. The matte was struck (illustrated above: 3, 4) by Morgan, March 1, 1917, soon after Barber had died.

   If the readers have any comments, questions or ideas please feel free to contact Seymour Wampum at www.seymourwampum.com