Though this is quite unusual in itself, comparison with 1839 Capped Bust Half Dollars revealed that the reverse came not from a Philadelphia Mint coin, but from one minted at New Orleans! This can be explained by the fact that, in 1838 and 1839, the "O" mintmark was placed on the the obverse of the Half Dollar, not the reverse.
So, it seems that the New Orleans Mint was practicing a little economy back in 1840, when it reused an old die from 1839 to strike 1840 Half Dollars. Thankfully, research into die varieties on American coins has progressed far enough to make such a determination.
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