Important Choice AU 1797 Half Dollar1797 50C AU55 NGC. O-101a, R.5. Long known to be the most difficult type coin of the denomination, Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollars have enjoyed nearly legendary status and are perhaps the most avidly sought type in all of U.S. numismatics. This design was coined for only two years, 1796 to 1797, with a total mintage of 3,918 pieces. Of this miniscule production, relatively few specimens are thought to have survived. In the ten years he has been studying the history and rarity of this series, researcher Jon Amato has, to date, accounted for nearly 220 1796-97 half dollars, of which eleven are in AU grades. The interested reader is referred to the February 2005 issue of the John Reich Journal (Vol. 16/Issue 2, pp. 12-17) for more information on this research.
Just four die marriages are known for the type, two for each of the dates of production. All four varieties were struck in 1797 as part of three deliveries. Mint records indicate that the first delivery was made on February 28, 1797 (60 coins), the second delivery on March 21 (874 coins), and the last on May 26 (2,984 coins). All of these coins were minted from silver ingots deposited by the Bank of the United States, and all of the deliveries were made to the Bank.
The high-grade 1797-dated specimen offered in this lot is an advanced die state of the Overton 101 variety (O-101a). It is characterized by its reverse, which consists of myriad die cracks. The obverse is perfect aside from a heavy crack from the rim through the second star to a lower curl. Liberty's cheek and shoulder have light wear, as does the eagle's breast, but most of the wings and hair curls retain considerable bright luster. This silvery piece is essentially unmarked aside from a pair of inconspicuous pinscratches near the hair ribbon, and there are no visible adjustment marks. A few wispy slide marks in the fields are mentioned for accuracy. The design elements are well centered on the planchet, and the dentilation is fairly strong on both sides. For the advanced collector, the importance of this Choice AU early silver type coin cannot be overstated.
From The Melrose Bay Collection.(#6060)(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24EC, PCGS# 6060)
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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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