Despite problems, rare 1796 Draped Bust half dollar realizes $42,300

Market Analysis: Lightly circulated, yet not lustrous, this middle grade can be tricky
By , Coin World
Published : 05/17/16
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The Very Fine grade has the widest range of numerical grades in the 1 to 70 Sheldon scale that serves as the basis for grading coins today. Grades can range from Very Fine 20 to 35, with the next grade being Extremely Fine 40. It’s a tricky grade in today’s marketplace: well-circulated, but not entry-point; nicely detailed, but with virtually no luster. Here are three Very Fine coins that sold at Heritage’s recent Central States Numismatic Society auction in Schaumburg, Ill. 

The Coin:

1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar, Very Fine Details, Plugged and Tooled

The Price:


The Story:

The Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollars of 1796 and 1797 represent the rarest silver U.S. type coin with a total mintage of just 3,918 pieces, of which around 300 are known today. Despite the issue’s longtime rarity, unrecorded examples occasionally turn up. 

COIN VALUES:  How much is your 1796 Draped Bust half dollar worth?

Jon Amato’s 2012 book The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796–1797 listed all then-known examples, and the one offered at CSNS, graded Very Fine details, Plugged and Tooled, by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., is a new discovery since the book’s publication. It has Very Fine details, but a hole at 12 o’clock relative to the obverse has been plugged, with details re-engraved accordingly. It is the 16 Obverse Stars variety (another 1796 half dollar variety has 15 obverse stars) and the obverse shows a die crack from the rim through the first four stars, which identifies it as a late die state. 

Despite the problems, it sold for $42,300.

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