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    1796 O-101 Draped Bust Half, VF35
    Important 15 Stars Example, CAC

    1796 50C 15 Stars, O-101, T-1, Amato 140, R.5, VF35 PCGS. CAC. Tompkins Die State 5/4. An estimated 1796 mintage of under 2,000 pieces is divided between the 15-Star and 16-Star 1796 varieties, with the 15-Star O-101 type slightly more available than its 16-Star O-102 counterpart. Together, they comprise about half of the total Draped Bust, Small Eagle type mintage. Collectors view the 1796 and 1797 Small Eagle halves in lockstep as its own subset -- a challenging two-year type, because the Small Eagle reverse was retired on half dollars after just 3,918 pieces were struck. As such, Small Eagle halves represent the rarest of all silver type. No half dollars were struck for the remainder of the century, and the denomination not resumed until 1801 with the Heraldic Eagle reverse.

    This Choice VF example of the 15 Star 1796 is richly toned and sharply defined. CAC endorsement is seldom seen on 1796 halves of any grade -- and just three O-101 examples display the green sticker at the VF level or finer. This is a coin with a notable provenance, having appeared in the Father Flanagan's Boy's Town Sale in May 1990 as lot 31. It was then holdered in a first-generation PCGS rattler holder as VF25, and described thusly:

    "Long known as the rarest silver type coin, the Draped Bust, Small Eagle Half Dollars were produced during two short years, both with quite low mintages. Most, of course, circulated to death, or nearly so. This coin was yanked out of circulation soon after its issue, held aside to be passed along as a family heirloom. Today, it has been encapsulated and labeled Very Fine 25 by the four consensus graders of PCGS ... in fact, the fields are far nicer than much higher grade coins from this era."

    The whereabouts of this coin are untraced either earlier, or years after, its appearance in that auction. It appeared with another 1796 half (16 Stars), each inserted into the midst of the H. Roland Willasch Collection of Bust half dollars. That fine collection led off the Boy's Town catalog, and even though those two coins were not part of the Willasch Collection, they fit right in. The Willasch offering was replete with most Overton varieties among early half dollars, but amazingly, that extensive collection held no Draped Bust, Small Eagle halves.

    Marks are indeed few and far between on the coin. Rich, bluish-gray patina lightens to silver-gray on the raised elements, and the strike is strong for both the grade and the type. There are no adjustment marks, although a solitary long, toned-over hairline pinscratch can be viewed on Liberty's cheek and neck when viewed with a strong lens. The coin is struck from a late die state, with heavy obverse die cracks among Liberty's drapery and stars 13 to 15. An inconspicuous rim notch above the first T in STATES is a minor planchet defect, perhaps instigated by the edge lettering. The coin is now encapsulated in a current PCGS holder and certified VF35 with CAC approval. Population: 4 in 35, 15 finer (11/19).
    From The Watermark Collection. (NGC ID# 24E9, Variety PCGS# 39261, Base 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 Watermark Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2020
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 590

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796-1797 by Jon Amato

    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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