Important 1794 Half Dollar, AU50, O-105a1794 50C AU50 NGC. O-105a, R.5. The attachment of star 2 to the lowest curl, a leaf attached to the right base of the I in AMERICA, and nine berries on each branch confirm the variety. While the NGC holder specifies the O-105 variety, the coin is actually the later die state 105a, as evidenced by the die crack from 11 o'clock at the reverse edge through the first T in STATES to the leaf. Furthermore, Al Overton indicates in his Early Half Dollar Die Varieties that this crack "... appears to cross the eagle and emerge from tip of right (facing) wing to edge below ER (in AMERICA)." This crack is indeed visible, albeit faintly, on the coin in the present lot.
The Mint began its production of silver coinage in October 1794 with the dollar. After the coining of approximately 2,000 dollars, however, it became apparent that the largest press on hand was not powerful enough to completely strike up the design. Mint Director David Rittenhouse thus decided that half dollars be struck while the Mint was making arrangements for the construction of a larger and more powerful press.
According to Mint records, 5,300 Flowing Hair half dollars were delivered on December 1, 1794 under Warrant number 2. Then, according to a November 26, 2002 Numismatic News article by researcher Robert Julian: "... a key piece of machinery broke down and it was some weeks before repairs could be completed." The next half dollar delivery occurred on February 4, 1795 with 18,164 pieces, per Warrant number 3. These were presumably dated 1794, giving the 1794 Flowing Hair half dollar a total mintage of 23,464 pieces. Julian estimates that between 250 and 350 specimens survive, most in "well-worn condition."
The AU50 example in this lot displays light silver-gray patination, with blushes of golden-tan and sky-blue around portions of the borders. Both sides retain a good amount of luster for the grade, and the design features are well defined, including sharp delineation in most of Liberty's hair strands, the dentils, and the eagle's wing and tail feathers. Light adjustment marks are visible on Liberty's portrait and around the obverse border, and the only significance of a shallow scratch in the lower left obverse field is to help pedigree the coin. All in all, a pleasing example that will undoubtedly generate spirited bidding.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 24E6, PCGS# 6051)
Weight: 13.48 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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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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