Of all the United States silver coinage from the earliest years to the present, the half dollar of 1796-1797, with Draped Bust right, Small Eagle reverse, is far and away the most difficult type to locate in any grade. Of the paltry 3,918 combined mintage for both years, the number existing today is roughly only 300. Most pieces slipped into circulation at the time of issue and selections above VF are quite rare, making the present piece quite the numismatic prize.
The current specimen is O-101a, which is from the shattered reverse die that produced O-101. A crack extends from the rim to the right side of O in OF through the palm leaves to the eagle’s right (facing) wing; from the rim between D in UNITED and the first S in STATES through the middle set of olive leaves and the upper left (facing) wing to the lower neck; and from the latter crack through the bases of ST, where it takes a right turn to travel through a leaf to the eagle’s neck. Several other less prominent reverse cracks are also visible. On the obverse, a diagnostic crack extends from the rim through star 2 to Liberty’s curl. Both sides of this lovely piece display strong striking elements. Ample original luster radiates beneath a blend of rich plum and vibrant gold that harmoniously tones both sides. This wholly original, aesthetically pleasing example is one of the top 10 1797 Half Dollars graded by PCGS.
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