Pleasing 1796 15 Stars Half Dollar
1796 50C 15 Stars Fine 15 PCGS. CAC. O-101, R.5. Following a
hefty production for the 1795 Flowing Hair half dollar (nearly
300,000 pieces), mintages of the 1796 and 1797 issues totaled only
3,918 coins. The 1796 half dollar bore a new Draped Bust design on
the obverse. The eagle on the reverse was made a bit smaller than
that on the 1795, was perched on two clouds instead of a rock, and
its wings placed entirely within the encircling wreath. The latter
is now composed of a laurel branch to the left and palm leaves to
the right, instead of the two laurel branches of the 1795 reverse.
Unlike the other silver denominations for 1796, the half dollar
bore the fraction 1/2 on the reverse exergue.
Fine 15, O-101
No half dollars at all were coined in 1798 through 1800, and when the denomination resumed in 1801, the Small Eagle reverse was replaced with a Heraldic Eagle. The small mintage of the 1796 and 1797 halves creates formidable demand for survivors from early silver type collectors and date/variety specialists.
The current Choice Fine 1796 15 stars half dollar displays natural silver-gray patina imbued with occasional splashes of light violet-blue and gold. The design elements are well defined, including nice detail in the middle and lower portions of Liberty's hair, and about one-third of the feathers in the eagle's wings. The dentilation shows on both sides, but is stronger on the reverse. The diagnostic die crack from the rim at 5:00 travels to the bust, where it turns right through the drapery to stars 15, 14, and 13. Its usual connection to the rim at 3:00 is not readily apparent on this example. No adjustment marks are evident. We mention some minute circulation marks solely for pedigree purposes. These include a small contact midway between star 2 and the curl, three or four minuscule marks to the right of stars three and four, one on the eagle's upper breast, and another to the upper right of the ribbon extending down from the right side of the bowknot. A toning spot on the rim to the upper right of the F in OF might also help to identify the coin.
In summary, this is a problem-free example with considerable eye appeal for having seen moderate circulation. The Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC) recognizes this with the affixed green label. This piece is also housed in a PCGS green-insert holder. (NGC ID# 24E9, PCGS# 6057)
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato is the culmination of more than 10 years of research into the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series, one of the most coveted type coins in American numismatics and one about which remarkably little has been written.
This work will be the premier reference for 1796-1797 half dollars for years to come. Institutions having an extensive numismatic library or coin cabinet will find it a valuable complement to their holdings, and catalogers charged with writing up specimens for auction can now have an indispensable source of background and pedigree information. Likewise, coin dealers seeking to purchase one or more '96 or '97 half dollars for a client or for inventory, and collectors who own, have owned, or desire to own one will want this important reference work for their libraries.
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