Choice AU 1796 16 Stars Half Dollar
1796 50C 16 Stars AU55 PCGS. O-102, High R.5. Ex: Liberty
Collection. The Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollars of 1796-1797,
from a paltry mintage of 3,918 pieces, hold a special appeal for
collectors of early American type coins. While not the most
difficult type coin to acquire (that distinction goes to the 1796
No Stars and the 1808 quarter eagles with mintages of 963 pieces
and 2,710 pieces, respectively), a case might be made for the
1796-1797 half as the most desirable of all U.S. design
types. Perusal of retail and wholesale price guides indicates that
the 1796-1797 half dollar has a higher type value in most grades
than any other coin, including the 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter
eagles. While those one-year gold type coins claim a smaller
mintage and fewer surviving examples, their lower grade-for-grade
values suggest they are in less demand for type collections than
the Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar. A much larger number of
collectors apparently prefer to assemble an early minor coin type
set as opposed to a collection of early gold type coins.
O-102, Late Die State
Very Rare in AU
Whatever the collector's goal with respect to metal content, a 1796 or 1797 half dollar is necessary for the completion of a type collection of U.S. coinage. The number of extant Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollars thus limits the number of type sets that can possibly be assembled. A 12-year research project by Jon Amato analyzing plated numismatic auction sales and coin dealer fixed price lists indicates the number of surviving 1796-1797 half dollars to be on the order of 270 specimens (this research, edited by James Halperin and Mark Van Winkle, will be published by Heritage Auctions in the near future).
The foregoing research shows the vast majority of 1796-1797 half dollars to be in grades Extremely Fine and lower. Indeed, only 35 of the 270 surviving specimens (12.9%) fall into the About Uncirculated or Mint State grades. And of the AU pieces, only 10 are classified as AU55 or AU58. This Choice AU 1796 16 Stars presents an unparalleled opportunity for the discriminating collector to acquire an outstanding piece of Americana.
Both sides display silver-gray and lilac-gray patina, highlighted by blushes of lilac-tan at the lower-right reverse border. The design elements exhibit excellent definition, including strong detail in Liberty's hair and the eagle's wing and tail plumage, and the dentilation is complete except for localized weakness above B in LIBERTY. A heavy crack runs from the rim through the first four stars, indicating the coin's late die state (contrary to the often-held notion that this crack is present on most 1796 16 Star specimens, it is only seen on about one-third of surviving examples). Upper-right to lower-left adjustment marks extend from the right (facing) wing through the adjacent leg, cloud, and lower palm wreath. The surfaces are remarkably clean for a coin having seen brief circulation. A vertical toning streak on the bust above the 6 in the date and two, small scalloped marks below the eagle's beak will aid in pedigreeing the coin. This piece will be the hallmark of a high-grade type collection of U.S. coins.
Ex: Stack's (6/1968), lot 79; Winner F. Delp Collection (Stack's, 11/1997), lot 70: Heritage Auctions (2/1995), lot 5655; Bob Bisanz U.S. Type Set (Heritage Auctions, 1/2001), lot 7729; Bowers and Merena (7/2003), lot 1382; Bowers and Merena (1/2005), lot 524.
From The Liberty Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24EA, PCGS# 6058)
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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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