US Coins

Market Analysis: 1796 No Pole half cent ‘Bold and Inviting’ or ‘awful and wretched’

Any 1796 Liberty Cap, Head Facing Right half cent is a prize and there are two distinct varieties: one that shows Liberty’s cap with a pole and one without a pole. A 1796 No Pole half cent described as “Bold and Inviting,” graded Very Good 10 by PCGS, brought $66,000 at the Rarities Night sale. The portrait on the Liberty Cap half cents from 1795 to 1797 is smaller than on the 1794 issues.

The 1796 Cohen 1 variety is instantly recognizable for both lacking a pole and for a heavy bisecting die crack on the obverse that originates at the border at 2:30 and extends into Liberty’s portrait, continuing into the hair. 

While the exact mintage for the 1796 half cents remains debated, the “Red Book” cites a mintage of just 1,390 across both versions, based on the Mint’s documentation of half cent delivery on Oct. 14, 1796, though some believe the mintage may be higher.

Stack’s Bowers observes, “Despite a grade of ‘only’ VG-10 from PCGS, this coin retains exceptional detail, as most known specimens of the 1796 No Pole half cent range from awful to wretched.”

Indeed, it was previously offered at a 2004 auction where it was graded Fine 15 by ANACS. That description stated that it had been previously certified both Fine 15 and Fine 12 by PCGS.


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