The 1897-S Half Dollar is one of the tougher dates of the 1890's. It is not as rare as the 1897-O or the 1898-S, but it is also far less common than the majority of the dates in the series. Our experts ranked it 19th rarest overall out of all the Barber Half Dollar dates. In MS65 and better grades, the 1897-S is 16th rarest overall. These are still rather impressive credentials even if the 1897-S is not the superstar it was once considered to be.
One of the benefits of third-party grading is that it gives us a fairly objective view of relative rarity and how difficult coins are to find in certain grades. In the pre-third party grading era, determinations of rarity were driven by personal experience, anecdotal evidence, seller bias, and pure guesswork. The new information gleaned from population reports is a double-edged sword: some coins have risen in stature and others have been diminished. Nevertheless, the 1897-S is a remarkable date that still commands a lot of respect today.
Virtually all 1897-S Half Dollars are struck well. If there is ever any weakness, it will be on the upper right shield point and the adjacent feathers.