1797 Liberty Cap Half Cent. C-3b. Rarity-4. Low Head, Lettered Edge. VF-20 (PCGS). Type: Type III: Liberty Cap, Head Right, Small Head.Design: Obv: A head of Liberty with flowing hair faces right, a liberty cap and pole behind. The word LIBERTY is inscribed along the upper border and the date 1797 is below. The portrait on Liberty Cap half cents dated 1795 to 1797 is noticeably smaller than for the Head Right issue of 1794, and it constitutes a distinct type. Rev: A wreath surrounds the denomination HALF CENT, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the border and another expression of the denomination, 1/200, below. A ribbon knot with double bow binds the base of the wreath.Weight Standard: 84 grains (5.44 grams). In practice examples of this Cohen number vary widely in weight, Manleys sample revealing a range of 73 to 98 grains.Diameter: Approximately 23.5 mm.Die Variety: Cohen-3b, Breen-3a, Gilbert-1. Obv: Normal (i.e., not repunched) date with Libertys portrait placed low in the field. The point of the bust and end of the pole are very close to the border, the date seemingly crowded between the portrait and border. The digit 1 in the date is thick, and the letter Y in LIBERTY is repunched along its right side. This obverse also appears in the 1797 C-3a and 3c attributions. Rev: Single leaf at the top of each branch in the wreath, four berries on the left branch, three on the right branch; there is a berry on the left side of the bow, but not on the right side. The letters UN in UNITED are closely spaced, the letters ICA in AMERICA are widely spaced. There is a leaf point below the center of the letter E in AMERICA. This reverse also appears in the Cohen-3a and 3c attributions.Cohen-3b corresponds to the Low Head, Lettered Edge <em>Guide Book</em> variety of the 1797 half cent.Die State: Manley 2.0. Obv: A gentle horizontal bulge extends from Libertys chin to the border at 3 oclock. Rev: A light crack extends from the border outside the E in UNITED, through that letter and the left wreath branch, into the field below the letter H in HALF.Edge: Lettered: TWO HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR, with no following leaf.Mintage: The <em>Guide Book</em> provides a mintage of 127,840 coins for all varieties of the 1797-dated issue. These were delivered over an extended period of time:-Spring 1797: 107,048 coins-Spring 1799: 12,170 coins-April 29, 1800: 5,750 coins-May 16, 1800: 2,872 coinsBreen asserts that some of the 12,356 coins delivered on June 5, 1800, may also have been from 1797-dated dies, although this delivery is not included in the mintage estimated in the <em>Guide Book</em>.No half cents were struck from either 1798- or 1799-dated dies.Estimated Surviving Population for the Issue: 1,100 to 3,425 coins in all grades.Estimated Surviving Population for the Die Variety: Rarity-4: 75 to 200 coins in all grades.Strike: This is a generally bold mid grade example with all major design elements well defined and fully appreciable save for those at the upper right center of the reverse. The letters A in HALF and T in CENT are faint, the LF indistinct, the upper right side of the wreath and the word OF soft. The bulge on the obverse has resulted in slight softness to Libertys profile at the nose and mouth, as well as at the end of the bust. The strike is a tad off center on the obverse, the denticulation thinner from 9 to 1 oclock, centering less perfect on the reverse with little to no denticulation from 9 to 2 oclock.Surfaces: Handsome chocolate brown patina is seen on both sides, with lighter sandy-copper highlights in the more protected areas around some of the design elements. The surfaces are moderately abraded, but most marks are small and singularly inconspicuous to the unaided eye. A row of nearly vertical lines on the obverse from the lower left corner of the cap to Libertys ear are remnants of border denticulation from the large cent undertype that provided the planchet for this half cent. A tiny dig on the same side at the junction of the cap, pole and the back of Libertys head is the most useful provenance marker.Commentary: Cohen-3b is the Lettered Edge variety of the 1797 Low Head half cent, all examples of which were overstruck on spoiled large cents. Faint remnants of the undertype are discernible on the obverse of this coin, as above. This variety has been eagerly sought by specialists since before the Civil War. The earliest known auction appearance was in Edward Cogans sale of May 31, 1860, and the Mickley sale of 1867 also included one. Even before the turn of the 20th century numismatists had recognized the rarity of this Cohen number. In the May 1880 edition of <em>Coin Collectors Journal,</em> David U. Proskey stated of the Lettered Edge 1797 half cent, "We do not believe more than five are known in this country."Today upward of 200 examples of the 1797 C-3b are believed extant, which is certainly more than had been confirmed in Proskeys day, but still far too small a number to satisfy demand from early copper specialists. The grade distribution of this variety is similar to most others in the Liberty Cap half cent series: most are in the lowest circulated grades, often impaired. Prior to this sale we had offered only seven examples at auction since 2003, the finest of which was a PCGS VF Details--Environmental Damage. Five of the remaining six were also impaired, the sole "straight graded" coin a PCGS VG-10. While not in the same league as the two (!) Missouri Cabinet specimens (PCGS AU-53 and EF-45), the present example is still distinctly finer than most 1797 C-3b half cents and would make a significant addition to an advanced holding. From the ESM Collection. Earlier ex Richard Shimkus; Jim McGuigan, June 16, 1984; Jules Reiver; Heritages sale of the Jules Reiver Collection, January 2006, lot 19031. This coin was certified VF-35 by NGC at the time of the Reiver Collection sale.