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    Description

    1796 C-2, B-2 With Pole Half Cent, MS66+ Red and Brown
    The Rarest Date Half Cent
    Considered the Finest Known 1795 to 1797 Half Cent

    1796 1/2 C With Pole, C-2, B-2, High R.4, MS66+ Red and Brown PCGS Secure. CAC. Breen Die State I, usual Manley Die State. Slight die lapping is evident with the base of the 6 thin and the lower edge of the cap absent. Repunching of the 9 remains visible, and microscopic die artifacts are clearly visible on this exceptional piece. On the reverse, the M in AMERICA is faintly doubled, a die characteristic that is not mentioned in the Manley or Breen references, and probably not visible on lower grade pieces. The reverse die was used for both 1796 varieties, although the order of striking remains unknown. Gilbert placed this coin first in his early 20th century variety reference, while Cohen and Breen both placed the No Pole first.

    Ron Manley discusses the emission sequence in his reference, The Half Cent Die State Book 1793-1857:

    "Apparently, the device punch for the head and cap was shallowly impressed into the 1796 C-2 obverse die. As a result, the lower edge of the cap is very weak and the hair is in low relief (the third lock even appears incomplete or 'broken'). Of the other 1795-1797 half cent varieties, only 1797 C-1 shares these similarities to 1796 C-2. I consider this noteworthy, since 1797 C-1 is believed to have immediately followed 1796 C-2 in order of mintage."



    This stunning Premium Gem exhibits full cartwheel luster with brilliant pale orange mint color and light brown toning that features pale bluish tendencies. The central obverse and reverse design motifs are sharply defined, with weakness at the obverse border and part of the reverse border, as usual for the 1796 half cents.

    This issue is famous for its low mintage, recorded as 1,390 coins during the year. That figure is generally accepted as the actual mintage of 1796 half cents. Perhaps seven percent of those coins survive today, including about two dozen No Pole coins, and 75 With Pole examples.

    Census of Mint State 1796 With Pole half cents known to us:
    Our census of the top 1796 With Pole half cents includes 10 examples that grade MS60 or finer. At least four of those have appeared in England during the past 30 years. EAC grades in the following roster are the opinion of the cataloger based on examination of the actual coins in some cases, or based on photographic evidence in other cases.

    MS67 EAC. MS66+ Red and Brown PCGS. The present coin, considered the finest 1795 to 1797 half cent. Spink America (12/1997), lot 347; Red Headed Copper Collection. The cataloger for Spink America wrote:

    "In early spring this year, a gentleman from Northern England contacted us about a small hoard of American coins and tokens. The highlights of his holding were, by some margins, a superb Sheldon-92 Penny and two stunning 1796, with pole, Half-Cents. Clearly, by some chance, a miniature 'Lord St. Oswald' hoard had turned up. Our offering in June included minty examples of a 1796 Dime, a Talbot, Allum and Lee Cent and a Liberty and Security Penny as well as the Penny and the lesser of the Halfpennies. Our consignor, having recovered from the results of the first offering, has now given us permission to offer the finest of his coins. Referring to this magnificent piece he recently wrote: 'I must underline this my second and last one. Parting with it is regrettable but such is life.'"


    MS65 EAC. MS66 Red and Brown. Ex: An English gentleman; Spink America (6/1997), lot 390; John Whitney (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1706.

    MS65 EAC. MS66 Red and Brown PCGS. Ex: An old English Collection; Alan Thomas (London); Superior (1992, privately); Gene Reale Collection (Sotheby's, 1/1998), lot 4; John Whitney Walter Collection (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1707; Stack's (10/2000), lot 23; D. Brent Pogue (Stack's Bowers, 2/2016), lot 3009.

    MS64 EAC. MS65+ Red and Brown PCGS. Howard Rounds Newcomb (sold privately, 1935); B. Max Mehl (privately, 1935); Col. E.H.R. Green; Green Estate (4/1943); Eric P. Newman and B.G. Johnson; B.G. Johnson; Charles J. Dupont Sale (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 1053; Doris E. Nelson; TAD Collection (Stack's, 3/1975), lot 822; R. Tettenhorst Collection; Eric P. Newman Education Society; Missouri Cabinet (Goldberg Coins, 1/2014), lot 37.

    MS64 EAC. MS64 Red and Brown PCGS. Photographed at PCGS Coin Facts.

    MS63 EAC. MS64+ Red and Brown PCGS. J.F. McCoy Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 5/1864), lot 757; J.N.T. Levick Collection; Joseph Zanoni Collection; Henry Miller Collection (Thomas Elder, 4/1917), lot 1032; Howard Rounds Newcomb Collection (sold privately, 1926); Wayte Raymond; Virgil Brand; New Netherlands; F.C.C. Boyd Collection; New Netherlands (privately, 1955); Kagin's (3/1964), lot 1455; Kagin's (11/1973), lot 980; Dr. Herbert I. Ketterman; RARCOA; R. Tettenhorst (privately, 4/1982); Jim McGuigan Collection.

    MS62 EAC. Uncirculated. Mark Hillary Estate (Woolley and Wallis, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, 1/2013), lot 579. Estimated at £25,000-£30,000, this piece had a hammer price of £185,000, with the buyer's premium and value added tax, the total was £234,950, or just over $379,000.

    MS60 EAC. MS65 Brown PCGS. Photographed at PCGS Coin Facts.

    MS60 EAC. MS64 Brown PCGS. River Oaks Collection (Bowers, 11/1976), lot 400; Bruce Amspacher; New England Rare Coin Galleries; New England (4/1980), lot 900; Anthony Terranova; private collection; Stack's (3/1986), lot 790; Stack's (7/2008); Stack's Bowers (8/2012), lot 11167.

    MS60 EAC. MS60 Brown (Estimated Grade). G.M. Klein (W. Elliot Woodward, 5/1888), lot 2048; Col. James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett; Hillyer Ryder Collection and Estate; New Netherlands (privately); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 23; Stack's (1/1992), lot 287.

    Additional Examples:
    Uncirculated. J.A. Duggan; Col. C.W. Cole; Robert F. Batchelder; Donald Groves Partrick.
    Uncirculated. Leon Bookman Collection (Stack's, 1946). Probably one of those listed above.

    Our EAC grade MS67.
    From the Property of a Gentleman in England (Spinks, 12/1997), lot 347. (NGC ID# 2227, Variety PCGS# 35099, Base PCGS# 1028)

    Weight: 6.74 grams

    Metal: 100% Copper


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

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