1796 15 Stars Half Dollar, O-101, Fine 12
1796 50C 15 Stars Fine 12 NGC. O-101, R.5. The Draped Bust
Small Eagle half dollar design type, bearing the dates 1796 or
1797, is one of the most important coin series in U.S. numismatics.
Its paltry mintage of 3,918 pieces and relatively low survival rate
(probably in the order of 275 to 300 specimens) makes it a "must
have" coin to complete a date/variety collection of early half
dollars or an advanced type set of U.S. coinage. While not the
rarest American type coin (that distinction goes to the 1796
No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles, each of which has a lower mintage
and lower number of extant examples), perusal of standard wholesale
and retail price guides indicates that the Draped Bust Small Eagle
half dollar exhibits, in most levels of preservation, the highest
value among all type coins. Type collectors apparently exert more
demand on silver-minor coinage than on early gold. Additionally,
1796-1797 half dollars saw extensive circulation, and unfortunately
many (as with other rare coins) were subjected to contemporary
abuses such as piercing, graffiti, deep scratches, and
countermarks, along with modern-day "improvements" like reengraved
design features, plugs, smoothed fields, scratch removal, whizzing,
burnishing, and other forms of cleaning.
An Attractive, Problem-Free Specimen
It is refreshing, therefore, to come across a 1796-1797 half dollar that is devoid of significant impairments. The present Fine 12 example displays the moderate to heavy wear one would expect for the designated grade. Yet the main devices are well outlined, especially on the obverse, where Liberty's middle and lower hair displays virtually VF definition. Some localized weakness is noted along the rims, especially above LIBERTY and AMERICA; the remaining dentilation is relatively strong. Both sides are blue-gray with violet-rose overtones, and each is fairly clean save for some insignificant pinscratches in the interiors. A minor rim flaw above ER of LIBERTY and a corresponding one to the lower right of the fraction identify the coin, as do trivial rim bumps above the D in UNITED and ES in STATES. All in all, an attractive example of this piece of Americana.
Ex: Heritage Auctions (9/1988), lot 653; Heritage Auctions (2/1989), lot 657; American Numismatic Rarities (6/2006), lot 1428.
From The Christmas Lake Collection. (NGC ID# 24E9, PCGS# 6057)
Weight: 13.48 grams
Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Christmas Lake Collection ]
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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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