Graded Specimen 65 by PCGS, the finest known 15 Stars 1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar (Overton 101) is being offered by GreatCollections on Sunday, November 19 – the first time this coin has been on the market in almost 20 years. The only other example of this major U.S. coin rarity certified by either PCGS or NGC is graded SP63 and sold for $587,500 USD as part of the D. Brent Pogue Collection in 2015.
The coin offered in this week’s online auction is pedigreed to the Knoxville Collection, though this is not listed on the PCGS Gold Shield insert.
Why Is the 15 Stars 1796 Half Dollar so Rare and Valuable?
PCGS states that the total mintage for the business strike 15 Stars Overton 101 variety of the 1796 Draped Bust design half dollar is 934, but only two “Specimen” strikes–this coin and the other one previously mentioned–are known to have been produced by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. When one considers that the regular 15 Stars is already one of the rarest and hardest to acquire pieces in all of U.S. silver coinage, one can see how unique the current opportunity is – nevermind the impressive condition this specimen is in.
Overton numbers refer to die varieties originally catalogued by numismatist Al Overton in the book Early Half Dollar Die Varieties: 1794-1836. Some Overton numbers include a die state suffix (“a”, “b”, etc.), but numbers without a suffix designate master varieties. All 15 Stars 1796 Draped Bust half dollars are of the Small Eagle reverse type, as well.
As for the “15 Stars”, early federal coinage represented the individual states of the Union at the time of a coin die’s manufacture with a corresponding number of stars. When Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796, dies had to be made that included an additional star, 16 in total. The Mint, however, wasn’t about to throw away a perfectly good coin die so it continued to use a die with only 15 stars to strike half dollars even after a 16th state had become part of the country.
At the time of writing, the highest of 63 bids on this coin is $535,000.
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