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
Link to this coin

1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS obverse 1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS reverse

Expand All    Collapse All


Click on a coin to see VarietyPlus details.

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.


Loading... Working...

Use the scroll bar at the bottom of this box to view a summary of the NGC Price Guide, NGC Census, Auction Prices Realized and NGC Registry Scores for each grade.

There was no data found for this Coin.

Select Designation


Select Grade

*To view the Census details for this coin, please sign in or sign up.

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
Base $ 38000 47500 61000 80000 127500 180000 190000 210000 260000 300000 325000 337500 422500 477500 - - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - 365000 - - - - - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



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

Upcoming Auctions

A random selection of NGC coins is shown below.

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.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
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
1796 15 STARS O-101 50C MS Prooflike
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: AU 55
Points: 11318
Owner: Lost Dutchman Rare Coins
View the Registry Image Gallery

Related Articles

Border Incidents, Part One

6/1/2007 — David Lange delves into the history behind the many different border designs that have appeared in American coinage.
View full article >

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer