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Important 1797 Half Dollar
1797 50C Fine 15 PCGS. CAC. O-101a, High R.4. The 1796-1797
half dollar, with its small 3,918-piece mintage, is perhaps
the most desirable and sought-after type U.S. type coin.
Previous estimates of surviving specimens range from fewer than 100
to about 300 coins; empirical research being conducted by this
cataloger (Jon Amato) has accounted, to date, for about 240 or so
Fine 15, O-101a
Al Overton, in his Early Half Dollar Die Varieties, recognizes four varieties of the Draped Bust Small Eagle half. Coins dated 1796 display either 15 stars (O-101) or 16 stars (O-102). The two 1797-dated varieties (O-101 and O-102), each of which contains 15 stars, are differentiated by the alignment of the reverse laurel and palm-branch wreath with respect to the peripheral lettering. The 1797 O-101 developed numerous reverse cracks (O-101a), and was eventually replaced by a new reverse (O-102).
The O-101a Choice Fine example offered here exhibits the reverse cracks typical for the later die state of the variety, along with the diagnostic light crack through the second star to the hair curl. Light gray hues are seen on the motifs, which are highlighted against the darker gray-violet fields. The design elements are nicely centered on the planchet and display relatively strong definition for the designated grade. Indeed, many of Liberty's hair strands are delineated, and there is an overall sharpness to the facial features and the bust. The usual weakness is noted along the right obverse and reverse borders. It is our opinion that PCGS downgraded the coin because of an old, toned-over pinscratch that traverses the obverse from star 4 to star 13. It is almost imperceptible, however, until the piece is examined with a magnifier. Close inspection reveals no other significant abrasions or mint-made adjustment marks. This piece will fit comfortably into any mid to high-grade date/variety or type collection.
(Registry values: N7079) (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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