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1796 16 Stars Half Dollar, Fine 12
1796 50C 16 Stars Fine 12 PCGS Secure. O-102, High R.5. The
Draped Bust half dollar with a Small Eagle reverse bears the dates
1796 or 1797, with each date consisting of two varieties. The first
variety of the 1796 issue has 15 obverse stars (Overton-101), while
the second variety has 16 stars (Overton-102). The 16 Stars variety
apparently commemorated Tennessee's June 1, 1796 admission to the
Union as the 16th state. While the dies may have been prepared
prior to this date, Mint records indicate that the first Draped
Bust Small Eagle half dollars were not delivered by the Chief
Coiner until February 28, 1797.
Scarcer Later Die State of O-102
The present 16 Stars example is nicely centered and has full Fine details, with nice residual definition showing in the middle and lower parts of Liberty's hair. The dentilation is fairly strong on each side, except along the upper obverse. Medium gray patina visits the borders, transitioning to a lighter stone-gray in the centers.
Moderate adjustment marks (as made) are present, but are relegated to the left reverse margin. The reverse has two tiny rim nicks at 4:30 and 10:30, and a few faint hairlines near the right (facing) wing. An old, faded mark between the LI in LIBERTY will serve as an identifier. Given the grade, these minor issues are all easily forgiven, especially considering the pleasing detail on the hair and wings, and the sharpness of all peripheral legends. The coin is from a later die state, as it displays a relatively heavy crack from the rim between star 1, and the date that extends through the first four stars then back to the rim. Research being conducted by Jon Amato indicates this to be a scarcer die state than without the crack.
Only 3,918 Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollars were reportedly minted, and less than 300 are estimated to have survived the ravages of time, making these pieces of Americana the most elusive and highly-valued of all U.S. type coins. Because a 1796 or 1797 half dollar is necessary for the completion of a type set, this lot is likely to see spirited bidder competition.(Registry values: N7079) (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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