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This issue is part of the famed Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar series. This series consists of two dates, 1796 and 1797, each of which has two varieties. The 1796 issue with 15 obverse stars is Overton 101, that with 16 stars is classified as Overton 102. The 16 stars coin was apparently intended to commemorate Tennessee's June 1, 1796 admission to the Union as the 16th state. The two 1797 issues (Overton 101 and 102) are differentiated by the alignment of the reverse wreath in relation to the peripheral lettering. All four varieties were struck in 1797 as part of three deliveries. Mint records show that the first delivery was made on February 28, 1797 (60 coins), the second delivery on March 21 (874 coins), and the last on May 26 (2,984 coins). All of these coins were minted from silver ingots deposited by the Bank of the United States, and all of the deliveries were made to the Bank. Breen, in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, theorizes that the February delivery was 1796's with 15 stars, those coins minted in March included some 1796 with 15 stars and others with 16 stars, and those coins produced in May consisted mostly of 1797-dated pieces and the last of the 1796's with 16 stars. Of the 3,918 half dollars of 1796-1797 that were minted, relatively few are thought to have survived. Estimates of extant pieces range from less than 100 to over 300 coins. Research being conducted by this cataloger (Jon Amato), has to date, accounted for close to 220 specimens in all grades. The interested reader is referred to the February 2005 issue of the John Reich Journal (Vol. 16/Issue 2, pp. 12-17) for the findings of this study.
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