Coin Specifications

Category: Early Halves (1794-1839)
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: $6.73 (5/26/2017)
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.

GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 5/27/2015

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

1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS
  GVGFVFXF505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ 38000 47500 61000 80000 127500 180000 190000 210000 260000 300000 325000 337500 422500 477500 - - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - 365000 - - - - - -

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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 20
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 50
High Grade: 64


Upcoming Auctions

A random selection of NGC coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
6/11/2017 F Details  Heritage Auctions 2017 June 8 - 11 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(2), 1256/Lot# 3646


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
2/1/2009 PCGS XF 40   Goldberg February 1-4, 2009 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 51/Lot# 926 $89,125.00
11/3/2010 NGC MS 63   Stack's Bowers The November 2010 Baltimore Auction, 44/Lot# 1908 $546.25
11/15/2013 NGC MS 62   Heritage Auctions 2013 November 15 - 16 Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part II Signature Auction - New York Session(2), 1190/Lot# 33418 $282,000.00
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
2/16/2017 PCGS Genuine VF   Heritage Auctions 2017 February 16 - 19 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach Session(2), 1252/Lot# 3762 $35,250.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base55636400668574318058952099811040110971113181179812096121781237812571143471655317556228222723311
584264956934764085459674101211059111087114781189712123122451244213163150821688719311242922723310
000000101211059111087114781189712123122451244213163150821688719311242922723300
000000102611078111202116381199712151123111250713755158181722221067257632723300
1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS Prooflike
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base578366446938770483479847103201075111335116901218212487125711277512973147901704618070234462794411
6070674271937918884710005104641094611453118541228412515126391284113579155421738719862249452794410
000000104641094611453118541228412515126391284113579155421738719862249452794400
000000106071114011572120181238512543127071290714184162941772921654264452794400
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 55
Points: 11318
Owner: Lost Dutchman Rare Coins
 
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