Exceptional 1796 15 Stars Half Dollar
1796 50C 15 Stars AU58 PCGS. O-101, R.5. The diagnostic die
crack from the rim at 5 o'clock to Liberty's bust, where it then
branches out along the drapery, is relatively light on this
near-Mint specimen. While the right branch crack displays a faint
connection to star 15, it does not extend to stars 14, 13, and back
to the rim at about 3:30, as is seen on most 1796 15 Stars half
dollars. Moreover, the semicircular crack on Liberty's neck above
the shoulder that is usually visible on high-end VF and above coins
is absent. The above indicate that this coin is from an earlier die
state. Another faint crack extends from the peak of the A in STATES
through the upper parts of TES before terminating in the field at
the upper left of O in OF.
AU58, O-101, R.5
Low to medium intensity cobalt-blue patina concentrates at the margins, while whispers of the same color palette join with lavender and orange in the central areas. A well executed strike delivers sharp definition to the design elements, including excellent detail in Liberty's facial features, hair strands, ribbon, and drapery. The eagle's wing and tail plumage is virtually complete, while the torso, neck, and legs reveal the typical softness. Both obverse and reverse exhibit complete dentilation, though it is stronger on the reverse, and the motifs are well centered on each side. Reflective surfaces provide a level of aesthetic desirability seldom encountered, and are completely devoid of adjustment marks. Both sides are remarkably clean, revealing just a handful of minuscule contact marks on Liberty's chest. Two rather spectacular planchet defects occur on the lower reverse. One to the lower left of the fraction extends from the rim through the 2 and middle of the lower right ribbon to the palm branch. The one to the lower right of the fraction travels from the rim into the field, where it makes a sharp right turn to end beneath the stem of the laurel branch. These Mint-made defects in no way detract from the overall appeal of this marvelous coin, and indeed serve as an excellent identifier.
This near-Mint State 1796 15 Stars half is a truly exceptional coin that will make a handsome addition to a high-grade type set or a date/variety collection of early half dollars.
Ex: Anderson Dupont Collection, Part II (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 2031; R.L. Miles Collection, Part II (Stack's, 4/1969), lot 1205; Dr. E. Yale Clarke Collection (Stack's, 10/1975), lot 182; Bowers and Ruddy Rare Coin Review No. 26, summer 1976; 2008 ANA Auction (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1668. (NGC ID# 24E8, PCGS# 6057)
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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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