The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
Both the New Orleans and San Francisco Barber halves of 1897 saw mintages under 1 million coins each, an easy and memorable cutoff point for many of the low-mintage issues of the era in various series. While the 1897-O half dollars were manufactured to the extent of 632,000 coins, the 1897-S emission was about 50% larger, at 933,900 pieces. Nonetheless, both issues are considered among the well-known keys to the Barber half collection today.
The coins were made only four years after Augustus B. Heaton published his celebrated treatise on Mint Marks, a chef-d'oeuvre that would forever alter the landscape of American coin collecting. However, it was another couple of decades before collecting coins by mintmark gained a serious foothold in America, and so it is that the few 1897-S Barber halves that exist today in high grade mostly were saved by fate rather than foresight.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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