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1797 Half Dollar, O-101a
1797 50C VF25 NGC. O-101a, High R.4. The Draped Bust Small
Eagle half dollar of 1796-1797 is one of the most difficult type
coins in American numismatics, regardless of the level of
preservation. It certainly exhibits the highest value, on a
grade-for-grade basis, of any U.S. type coin. Consequently, it is
absent from most collections.
Attractively Toned VF25 Example
Near-Terminal Die State
The VF25 offering in this lot is a perfect fit for a mid- to high-grade collection. Medium gray fields highlight silver-gray devices, yielding a pleasing two-tone patination. Liberty's hair displays excellent detail for the grade, as does most of the drapery. About one-half of the eagle's feather detail is visible, and the right (facing) talons are nearly full. The dentilation is nearly complete on both sides, a significant attribute for a 1797 half that ordinarily shows extensive weakness along the right obverse. The wreath, clouds, and lettering also stand out. We mention a few unobtrusive marks solely for pedigree purposes: one near the rim to the lower right of star 1, a diagonal mark beneath Liberty's chin, and one to the upper right of the eagle's beak.
The reverse of this coin is significant in that it approaches the terminal die state of Overton's 1797 101a variety, as seen by myriad die cracks. While many of them are worn off on lower-grade examples, the present specimen retains several diagnostic cracks. We describe them for the benefit of early half dollar specialists who collect by die state. First, a crack runs from the lower right side of the O in OF through the palm leaves to the wing. Second, a crack extends from the rim between D and S through the wreath to the wing. Finally, a crack travels from the rim through the first T in STATES and the wreath to the eagle's neck. The absence of the final-stage crack, which will form a right angle with the latter one and travel through the bottoms of ST to join perpendicularly the crack between D and S, precludes this piece from being classified as the "terminal die state."
In summary, this is an attractively patinated, well-defined coin that exhibits a late die state. As such, it will elicit spirited bidding among type and variety/die state collectors as well as those simply interested in owning a classic piece of Americana.
Ex: Superior Galleries (9/2006), lot 1119.(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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