Important 1797 Half Dollar, AU58, O-101a
1797 50C AU58 PCGS. CAC. O-101a, High R.4. Draped Bust,
Small Eagle half dollars, bearing the dates 1796 or 1797, come from
a paltry mintage of 3,918 pieces, about 250 of which have survived
the ravages of time. Half dollars of 1796-1797 are one of the
rarest U.S. type coins and certainly the most expensive in
virtually all levels of preservation. Even the most advanced
collections often lack this rarity, and when present, it is usually
in the low to middle grade levels and/or impaired. The present
near-Uncirculated example is a special offering and an infrequent
opportunity for the advanced type collector or half dollar
date/variety specialist to acquire a high-grade, original,
There are four varieties of Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar. The first variety (Overton-101) displays 15 obverse stars, while the second has 16 stars (O-102). The two 1797-dated varieties (O-101 and O-102) share the same obverse but have different reverses, differentiated by the alignment of the peripheral lettering in relation to the central devices.
The reverse of the 1797 Overton-101 variety was originally paired with the 1796 15 stars and 1796 16 stars obverses. During its use with the latter obverse, the reverse die developed a crack from the tip of the palm leaf below the base of the F in OF through the right side of O to the milling. This reverse developed even more cracks shortly after it was paired with the 1797 obverse die (O-101) and soon began to break up (O-101a). A new reverse die was then used with the 1797 obverse (O-102).
The present 1797 O-101a example exhibits several (though not all) of the diagnostic die cracks characteristic of the variety/die state. The above-mentioned crack now extends from the palm leaf tip through the leaf itself, then through the leaves below, and terminates below the eagle's left (facing) wing. Yet another crack travels from the bottom of the O in OF through the two palm leaves below. Another runs from the milling between the last S of STATES and O of OF through two palm leaves, finally terminating at the left side of the eagle's left (facing) wing. Another connects the lower right (facing) wing to the top of the eagle's leg. Finally, a diagnostic crack extends from the milling between the D of UNITED and S of STATES through the tops of three laurel leaves to the wing. On the obverse, the typically seen crack from the milling through star 2 to the curl is visible. Despite the plethora of foregoing cracks, the reverse on the current coin falls slightly short of the terminal die state as there is not yet a crack that runs from D to the bottom of ST.
A beautiful mix of medium-intensity gunmetal-blue, lavender, gold-russet, and purple toning enlivens both sides of this AU58 example, a coin that retains a significant amount of mint luster. The design elements are sharply delineated, including Liberty's hair, facial feature and drapery, the eagle's wing and tail feathers and claws, and the palm and laurel wreath. The stars are also strong. Only minor softness is noted on several stars along the right obverse border, an area that displays weakness on most 1797 halves. The surfaces are remarkably clean, with minimal identifying reference marks. One is in the field left of stars 14 and 15, another on Liberty's cheek, and one on the upper left part of the left ribbon bow. Light adjustment marks on the lower reverse take nothing from this coin's gorgeous overall eye appeal.
This piece of Americana will please the most discriminating collector and serve as the centerpiece of an advanced type or date/variety collection. Its outstanding technical quality and aesthetic appeal, along with a most impressive pedigree, can only result in keen competition for its ownership, or should we say its custodianship.
Ex: H.O. Granberg Collection, The American Numismatic Society Exhibition of United States and Colonial Coins, January 17 to February 18, 1914, Plate 19; William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 396; Reed Hawn Collection (Stack's, 8/1973), lot 8; Auction '81 (Rarcoa, 7/1981), lot 132; Auction '85 (Superior, 7/1985), lot 750.
From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24EC, PCGS# 6060)
View all of [The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection ]
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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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