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Collectible 1796 16 Stars Half, O-102
VG10 Details, Ely Specimen (1884)

1796 50C 16 Stars--Plugged--ANACS. VG10 Details. O-102, High R.5. Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollars, dated 1796 or 1797, have elicited serious collector interest since American numismatic auctions became widespread in the 1860s and 1870s. Even those coins revealing noticeable impairments, such as heavy scratches, holes, plugs, counterstamps, graffiti, re-engraved design elements, corrosion, gouges/punch marks, etc. found their way into 19th century collections, often after having realized relatively high prices.
The same situation exists in the present day. Early half dollar date/variety and type collectors, cognizant of the rarity of the series, place considerable demand pressure even on impaired specimens. Ongoing research by this cataloger indicates that at least 20 percent of surviving 1796-1797 halves exhibit one or more of the above-mentioned problems.
The 1796 16 stars offering in this lot is one of these coins. It has been crudely plugged in the field under Liberty's left (facing) bust. The plug's outline actually shows better on the reverse between the last S of STATES and O of OF. Both areas were then tooled, the obverse more so. A small dent is also visible in the drapery beneath this bust.
Aside from these impairments, this is a rather nice early half. Both sides display light bluish-purple and gray patina. The design elements show a good amount of definition, including Liberty's ear and lower hair curls, and some of the eagle's wing plumage. The date is strong, as is the 1/2 fraction. All in all, this piece probably falls more into the Fine Details grade range. No adjustment marks are visible. This coin will fit comfortably in a low to mid-grade collection.
Ex: Honorable Herman Ely Collection (W.E. Woodward, 1/1884), lot 157, where it realized $25 (a high price for that era); Western Reserve Historical Society Collection et al. (Stack's, 9/2002), lot 604.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 24EA, PCGS# 6058)

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Auction Dates
March, 2009
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
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The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato

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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