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Very Rare 1797 Half Dollar in Choice XF Condition1797 50C XF45 PCGS. O-101a, R.5. The 1796-1797 Half Dollar is one of the most avidly sought-after type coins in all of U.S. numismatics. The two years share a common design; and in fact, they also share a common mintage with a combined total of 3,918 pieces struck in both years. Three-quarters of that total mintage are believed to be 1797 dated coins, but very few of either date are known today, and those that are extant are not usually seen above the VG-Fine grade level.
The 1797 is a curious issue. The obverse die displays 15 stars like that of the first die used for the 1796-dated coinage. According to Breen, the obverse die used to produce the 1797-dated delivery was prepared prior to Tennessee's admission into the Union, but the final digit in the date was omitted. As Heritage's former Auction Director Bob Merrill once commented, "It makes you wonder what they were thinking in the Mint. Did they think they were just going to keep adding stars on coins indefinitely when a new state was admitted to the Union?" From a practical viewpoint, though, when the Mint needed this die for coinage, its employees simply added the final 7 to the date. Breen also speculates that most, if not all of the 2,984 Half Dollars that the Philadelphia Mint delivered on May 26, 1797 were dated 1797. Of these, there are perhaps 150 to 200 pieces that survive, most in very low grades. This is one of the finest examples of this type we have ever seen. The obverse is very well detailed with good definition on Liberty's hair and showing just a bit of softness on the forecurls. The reverse is a bit more worn with the eagle's breast showing no feathers. Mostly brilliant overall, there is just a bit of tannish-gray patina over the highpoints of the design. Numerous small abrasions are peppered over each side, but the only marks worthy of individual mention on this splendid coin are a shallow scratch in the left obverse field by star 4, another between the R and I in AMERICA, and a third that angles across the clouds below the eagle. Population: 5 in 45, 6 finer (1/03). (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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