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Very Rare 1797 16 Stars Half Eagle, Possibly The Finest Known In Private Hands

1797 $5 Small Eagle, 16 Stars MS60 NGC. Breen-6420, B. 12-K, Miller-19, R.6. The 16 Stars 1797 Small Eagle five is one of the major rarities in the half eagle series. The obverse die has 11 stars on the left and five on the right. This is not an altered 15-Star die, but it is distinctive with differently placed devices. It is believed that both varieties were made in late 1795 or early 1796 with the final digit in the date omitted--a common practice in the early Mint when it was uncertain in which year a die would actually be used. Breen stated that the 16-Star coins constituted the delivery of 1,390 half eagles struck sometime after Tennessee was admitted to the Union (as the 16th state) on June 1. Probably no more than 35 examples survive today of all four Small Eagle varieties dated 1797, which include two varieties of 15-Star coins and two 16-Star half eagle varieties.
While several Mint State pieces are believed known of the 16-Stars, it is actually a much rarer coin than it appears as several of the higher graded pieces are impounded in museums. In fact, this is the only Uncirculated coin certified by either of the major services to date (3/04). The surfaces show the usual green-gold coloration one expects from early gold with almost none of the reddish patina often seen. Close examination shows considerable prooflikeness around the stars and legends, this reflective quality only being interrupted by numerous small abrasions that are peppered over each side, none of which are large enough to merit individual mention. A heavy pie-shaped pair of die cracks are seen on the lower reverse, as seen on later die states. Well struck around the margins, there is slight softness noted in the centers over Liberty's hair and the eagle's breast. A very rare opportunity to acquire one of the key issues in the half eagle series.
Ex: Stanley Kesselman (7/16/73); Harry Bass II (Bowers and Merena, 10/99), lot 721. (#8068) (NGC ID# BFWY, PCGS# 8068)

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Auction Dates
June, 2004
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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