Type 1, Small Eagle

Obverse of 1797 Half Dime - 15 Stars on Reverse
Reverse of 1797 Half Dime - 15 Stars on Reverse

Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): The Draped Bust style is believed to have been the work of Robert Scot, who followed the proposal make by artist Gilbert Stuart. The obverse depicts Liberty with flowing hair, a ribbon behind her head, with drapery covering her plunging neckline. LIBERTY is above and the date is below. 1796 half dimes have eight stars to the left and seven to the right on the obverse, while those dated 1797 come in three variations, with a total of 13, 15 of 16 stars. The reverse features an open wreath enclosing a small eagle perched on a cloud, the eagle being smaller in size than that used in 1794-95, and with the cloud more pronounced and higher above the wreath bow. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds. Again, there is no indication of value or denomination.

All half dimes of this design type are scarce. Most often encountered are pieces in lower grades from About Good through Fine. Very Fine pieces are elusive, Extremely Fine coins are scarce and those in AU or better preservation are rare and seldom seen. In the 1960s, when James F. Ruddy was gathering photographs for his Photograde book, he found that examples of this half dime type were among the most difficult to locate. As is true of other early silver coins, pieces are apt to have mint caused adjustment marks and to be weakly struck in certain areas, particularly at the center of the eagle on the reverse.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers