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1796 16 Stars Half Dollar
O-102, Outstanding VG10

1796 50C 16 Stars VG10 PCGS. CAC. O-102, High R.5. The Draped bust Small Eagle half dollar of 1796-1797 saw a paltry mintage of 3,918 pieces, making it one of the rarest of U.S. type coins. This low production figure can be attributed to several factors, the most important of which may have been that most bullion depositors wanted dollars for their silver, not half dollars or smaller denomination coins. Second, an illegal silver standard of 0.900 fine in effect for 1794-1795 coinage instead of the 0.8924+ prescribed by the Mint Act of 1792 discouraged merchants and bankers from bringing silver bullion to the Mint for coinage into any denomination (see Don Taxay, U.S. Mint and Coinage, p. 89, for a discussion of the effect this illegal standard had on the dollar amount depositors received for their silver). Third, a yellow fever epidemic forced the closing of the mint from late August to late November 1797. Finally, the years 1794 and 1795 saw a relatively hefty production of more than 300,000 half dollars of the Flowing Hair design type.
The present 1796 16 stars offering is an amazing coin in several respects. It displays excellent design definition for the grade, including relatively strong detail in Liberty's middle and lower hair and that atop the head. The date, stars, and letters in LIBERTY all stand out, as do the reverse letters, wreath, and fraction. About one third of the plumage shows in the eagle's wings while virtually all of the tail feathers are evident. Portions of the left (right facing) claw are visible and the right (left facing) leg is completely separated from the torso. As these features point to relatively strong Fine detail we feel this coin has been conservatively graded by PCGS.
The multicolored toning is another outstanding attribute of the present specimen. Light to medium gray patina is highlighted by golden-orange, sea-green, rose, and bluish-gray on the obverse and subtle apricot and silver-gray on the reverse. Two minuscule marks on the right (left facing) breast and a few more under the left (right facing) wing will help pedigree the coin. The lack of a die crack from the rim through the first four stars indicates an earlier die state. All in all, this is a wonderful piece for a 200 year+ coin that has seen moderate circulation.
Ex: Laurence H. Gardner Collection from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (Stack's, 3/2005, Choice Fine), lot 167; William H. LaBelle, Sr. Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 7/2005, NGC Fine 12), lot 1147; Ira and Larry Goldberg (9/2005, NGC Fine 12), lot 1706; Bowers and Merena (1/2010, PCGS VG10, CAC), lot 353.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 24EA, PCGS# 6058)

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Auction Dates
December, 2010
2nd-5th Thursday-Sunday
Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 3,441

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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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