O-102 Low R.6. The rarest regular-issue US silver coinage design and solid for the grade. The Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar is one of the most difficult type coins to obtain, arguably the most difficult silver type coin, but not as rare as the 1796 No Stars quarter eagle or the 1808 quarter eagle. These half dollars, bearing the dates 1796 or 1797, come from a paltry mintage of 3,918 pieces, about 250 of which have survived the ravages of time. Half dollars of 1796-1797 are one of the rarest U.S. type coins and certainly one of the most expensive in virtually all levels of preservation. Even the most advanced collections often lack this rarity, and when present, it is usually in the low to middle grade levels, as here, and/or impaired, unlike this original, problem-free piece.
There are four varieties of Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar. The first 1796 variety (Overton-101) displays 15 obverse stars, while the second has 16 stars (O-102). The two 1797-dated varieties (O-101 and O-102) share the same obverse but have different reverses, differentiated by the alignment of the peripheral lettering in relation to the central devices.
The reverse of the 1797 Overton-101 variety was originally paired with the 1796 15 stars and 1796 16 stars obverses. During its use with the latter obverse, the reverse die developed a crack from the tip of the palm leaf below the base of the F in OF through the right side of O to the milling. This reverse developed even more cracks shortly after it was paired with the 1797 obverse die (O-101) and soon began to break up (O-101a). The breakup of the reverse die used in the 1797 Overton 101 and 101a varieties resulted in the employment of a new reverse die. The O-102 reverse differs from the old reverse in that the peripheral lettering is slightly offset in relation to the wreath.
David Hall: Of the 2984 1797 half dollars minted, probably less than 200 survive today in all grades. There are two specimens that are truly superb examples, one graded MS66 by PCGS and another with an estimated grade in the MS65/66 range.
Stack’s “Baldenhofer” 11/1955:676 - Norweb Collection - Bowers & Merena 11/1988:3027 (as MS63 to MS65, prooflike), $220,000 - Haig Koshkarian Collection - American Numismatic Rarities 3/2004:76, $966,000 - Stack's 7/2008:4261, $1,380,000 - Trade Dollar Nut Collection
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