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    1797 LM-3 Half Dime, MS66
    16 Stars Obverse
    From the D. Brent Pogue Collection

    1797 H10C 16 Stars, V-3, LM-3, R.5, MS66 PCGS. CAC. Our first silver coins, half dollars and dollars, were coined in the last quarter of 1794, with half dimes minted early in 1795 (bearing the 1794 date). At the time, the nation consisted of 15 states, as Vermont became a state in 1791, and Kentucky in 1792. For that reason, those initial silver coins had 15 stars. Once Tennessee was admitted to the Union in June 1796, another star was added to the silver and gold coins, creating the 16 star varieties.

    Some 1797 half dimes also exist with just 15 stars, and we believe that those pieces were coined from an obverse die that was actually engraved early in 1796, omitting the final date digit, in anticipation of a coinage need that never materialized. Early in 1797, that die was completed by punching a 7, then the die was hardened and put to use. Those were the first 1797 half dimes minted, and they are known by the variety notation Logan-McCloskey 1 (LM-1). When a new obverse die was created in 1797 for further coinage, the obverse was correctly engraved with 16 stars. As Pennsylvanians and others migrated to the Northwest Territory in the early and mid-1790s, Mint officials obviously and correctly realized that additional states where on the horizon, and they also realized that they would soon run out of space for additional stars representing more states. The last half dime obverse engraved in 1797 (LM-4) had 13 stars representing the original 13 states, and that star count remained constant into the 20th century with only a few exceptions.

    The Pogue cataloger sold this coin short, in our opinion, when he wrote:

    "This is the finest example known from these dies. Two of its closest competitors are pieces we have offered in the last dozen years: the 2004 Oliver Jung specimen, graded PCGS MS-65, and the Eliasberg coin currently graded NGC MS-66."

    However, both of those coins are actually examples of LM-2, and not LM-3 that is offered here. The only comparable example of LM-3 that we have located is the MS66 NGC coin that appeared as lot 85 in the August 1998 Bowers and Merena Rarities sale and reappeared in our August 2014 sale of the Oliver Jung Collection. Although PCGS grades three 1797 half dimes in MS66 and one in MS67, and NGC adds three more graded MS66, we are aware of just four 1797 half dimes that exceed MS65, three in MS66 and one in MS67, as shown in the following roster.

    Finest 1797 Half Dimes
    LM-1 MS67 PCGS. Pittman Collection (David Akers, 10/1997), lot 426; Superior (2/1999), lot 552; Superior (2/2002), lot 1654; Stack's-Bowers (5/2015), lot 1008.

    LM-2 MS66 NGC. Eliasberg Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 899; American Numismatic Rarities (1/2005), lot 322; Stack's (1/2010), lot 3143.

    LM-3 MS66 PCGS. The Present Specimen. Lawrence R. Stack Type Set; D. Brent Pogue Collection (Stack's-Bowers, 5/2015), lot 1009.

    LM-3 MS66 PCGS. Bowers and Merena (8/1/1998), lot 85; Oliver Jung Collection (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5549.

    While the MS67 LM-1 half dime is numerically finer according to PCGS, this piece from the Pogue Collection and the similarly graded Oliver Jung coin that we sold in August 2014 are the sharpest struck 1797 half dimes we have encountered. In addition to the sharp strike, this piece exhibits pristine surfaces with full mint luster and pewter-gray surfaces beneath original cobalt-blue, emerald-green, and iridescent toning. Careful examination, even with a strong glass, will fail to turn up more than a few minuscule marks that have gathered in the last 220 years since this beauty was struck. (NGC ID# 22ZZ, Variety PCGS# 38599, Base PCGS# 4259)

    Weight: 1.35 grams

    Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Numismatic Background and Census of 1802 Half Dimes: A Classic American Rarity
    This 64-page book cites mintage and rarity estimates by prominent numismatists and documents the currently known 1802 half dime appearances. Each of the 32 documented examples includes an enlarged obverse/reverse photograph, the author's assigned grade, the provenance of each coin, auction prices realized or dealer fixed asking price, and a unique serial number for each specimen that will facilitate retrieval for research, cataloging, or price-information purposes. Reserve your copy of this remarkable volume for just $29.95 today.
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