Coin Specifications

Category: Early US Type Performance
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 3,918
Obverse Designer: Robert Scot
Reverse Designer: Robert Scot
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.8920
Weight: 13.4800g
ASW: 0.3866oz
Melt Value: $6.20 (2/19/2019)
Diameter: 32.5mm
Edge: Lettered
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1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS obverse 1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS reverse
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Description & Analysis

The half dollar coinage dated 1796 was very limited, and it appears that all were likely coined during the following year, since there were no mint delivery warrants for half dollars during 1796. Numismatists have speculated that the coins bearing this date comprised the two warrants dated February 28 and March 21 of 1797, but author Steve Tompkins posed that the warrant May 26 of 1797 included among its 2,984 half dollars some 1,000 dated 1796. This would provide an estimated total of 1,934 1796 half dollars, while most reference books simply lump all of the warrants for 1797 into a combined figure of 3,918 pieces for the two dates of half dollars.

The half dollar received an entirely new portrait of Liberty and a highly revised interpretation of the eagle. These first appeared on the 1795 silver dollar and were gradually adapted to the lesser silver denominations. Though the edge legend FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR was continued from the 1794-95 half dollars, the engraver opted to add a simple fraction 1/2 below the wreath, a feature not seen on the other silver coins. It remained unique to the half dollars of 1796-97.

This variety featuring only 15 stars on its obverse is believed to have employed an obverse die prepared before Tennessee's June 1796 entry into the union. The Mint was quite thrifty with its dies and would not have discarded an obsolete one until it failed or was otherwise unsuitable for coining. The lack of any reported half dollars during calendar year 1796 would have provided the Mint with at least one unused die when the demand for half dollars reappeared early the following year.

The 15-star variety is rated R-5 minus, indicating an estimated population of around 60-75 coins. Most examples are moderately worn and fall into the middle range of the circulated grades. Early numismatists knew that half dollars dated 1796-97 were worth preserving, and severely worn pieces are far less often seen than for more common coins of this period. A few Mint State survivors are known, and these are highly prized by both date collectors and those seeking a representative of the two-year-only Draped Bust, Small Eagle type.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 5/31/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS
Base $ 38000 47500 61000 80000 127500 180000 190000 210000 260000 300000 325000 337500 422500 477500 - - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - 365000 - - - - - -

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Total Graded: 17
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 50
High Grade: 64

The chart showing PrAg series, G series, VG series, F series, VF series, 40 series, 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 2/18/2019 1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS
 6 %-12 %6 %24 %-12 %--6 %6 %-6 %6 %12 %6 %------ 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
10/17/2012 NGC Details F Details  Stack's Bowers The November 2012 Baltimore Auction - US and World Lots - Live and Internet Only Sessions, 144/Lot# 3137 $20,700.00
1/8/2014 PCGS VF 35   Heritage Auctions 2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando Session(3), 1201/Lot# 5242 $106,499.65
5/19/2015 NGC MS 62   Stack's Bowers May 2015 Pogue Collection, 6071/Lot# 1101 $258,500.00
8/10/2016 PCGS VF 30   Heritage Auctions 2016 August 10 - 14 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Anaheim Session(2), 1238/Lot# 4075 $82,250.00
8/10/2016 PCGS F 12   Heritage Auctions 2016 August 10 - 14 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Anaheim Session(2), 1238/Lot# 4074 $49,350.00
11/2/2017 NGC Details F Details  Heritage Auctions 2017 November 2 - 4 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas Session(2), 1261/Lot# 16747 $19,200.00
2/22/2018 PCGS VF 30   Heritage Auctions 2018 February 22 - 26 LB Expo US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(2), 1272/Lot# 3857 $87,000.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1796 50C MS 15 STARS O-101 Prooflike
1796 50C MS 15 STARS O-101
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 55
Points: 11318
Owner: Lost Dutchman Rare Coins
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