Ron Guth: Three major varieties comprise the entire run of 1796 Silver Dollars: 1) Small Date, Small Letters; 2) Small Date, Large Letters; and 3) Large Date, Small Letters. Each of these major varieties is made up of one or more die varieties. The difference in the size of the dates is fairly apparent when the Small and Large Dates are placed side-by-side, but individual coins may be difficult to attribute out of context, so use the pictures provided above. The size difference of the lettering on the reverse is more dramatic and more easily discerned.
Of the three major varieties, the Small Date, Small Letters is the most common (according to the PCGS Population Report). The least common is the Large Date, Small Letters variety, which is approximately twice as rare as the Small Date, Small Letters.
The PCGS Condition Census for the 1796 Small Date, Small Letters Silver Dollar ranges from AU-55 to AU-58, with none in Mint State. The finest examples certified by PCGS include four coins at the AU58 level.