The D. Brent Pogue Collection

backSuperb Gem 1796 Half Dollar

Lot 1102
Superb Gem 1796 Half Dollar

16 Stars
Rarest of the Type
Single Finest PCGS Coin

Play Video

1796 Draped Bust Half Dollar. O-102. Rarity-5+. 16 Stars. MS-66 (PCGS).Among all early United States coins those struck in 1796 are very special. This particular year is laden with rarities, including two varieties of half cents, the first quarter dollar issue, elusive half dollars, and gold issues. Some years ago John Whitney Walter assembled a magnificent collection of these, earning him the nickname of “Mr. 1796.” There are two varieties of 1796 half dollars—with 15 stars and, as here, 16 stars. The 16 Stars variety is several times more elusive than the 15 Stars, itself a rarity.

This marvelous Gem hails from our auction offering in 1999, where we described it as follows:
"Specimen-66. The finest known. There is no finer example of the extremely rare 16 stars half dollar known to us. The Red Book plate coin."

This example surpasses the Eliasberg, Norweb, Reed Hawn, and every other piece we have ever seen. The quality of this coin is, in a word, superb. Lovely deep silver gray toning is seen on both sides, with rose, pale gold, and iridescent blue highlights. Both sides show bright prooflike flash in the fields and even in the recessed areas, such as the inside of the eagle’s left wing. One short lint mark on the reverse under the eagle’s neck is noticed, showing that the die had been polished prior to striking this coin.

On the obverse the stars, letters, numerals, and Liberty’s hair are all sharply struck up with all details showing bold and full. On the reverse the eagle’s neck and left leg feathers are a trifle soft, but some of the breast feathers and most of the leaves show full inner details.

It would be impossible to improve on the preceding. Of all of the D. Brent Pogue Collection coins this is one of the most exciting. The term “once in a lifetime opportunity” seems to be very applicable here!

The January 1894 issue of The Numismatist featured a poem by Augustus G. Heaton, titled “The Convention of the Thirteen Silver Barons.” The lengthy and quite clever poem was a commentary on a burning political issue of the day: the unrestricted coinage of silver and the declining price of that metal on world markets. The “barons” in question consisted of rarities in the American silver series, with the 1804 silver dollar being the “chairman” and the others consisting of the half dime of 1802, an 1804 dime, quarters of 1823 and 1827, half dollars of 1796 and 1797, and dollars of 1794, 1838, 1839, 1851, 1852 and 1858.

If you are forming a type set or if you are a half dollar specialist here is a wondrous coin. Few numismatists will ever own an MS-65, let alone an MS-66!

Provenance: Possibly from the Carl Wurtzbach Collection; Barney Bluestone 1931; Judge Arthur F. Curtis (circa 1951); Charles French (possibly offered in French’s 47th Sale, October 1951); Abraham Hepner; Lelan Rogers; our session of Numisma ’95, lot 1250; our sale of the John Whitney Walter Collection, May 1999, lot 1778.

Rarities Auction Accompanying the D. Brent Pogue Collection

Stack’s Bowers Galleries will be hosting an exclusive Rarities Auction, held in conjunction with The D. Brent Pogue Collection. We will be accepting limited consignments of United States and world coins and paper money, featured in a spectacular catalog reserved for the rarest of the rare. Special terms will apply. If you are interested in participating in this unique opportunity, please call 949-748-4849 or email us at [email protected].

Alternatively, you can fill out our online consignment form. Click here to view the form.