1797 Capped Bust Right Half Eagle. Small Eagle. BD-2. Rarity-7. 15 Stars, Narrow Date. MS-60 (NGC). A phenomenal absolute and condition rarity for the advanced early half eagle variety enthusiast. Handsome olive-gold color blankets both sides with iridescent reddish-apricot highlights also very much in evidence. The finish is satiny to modestly semi-reflective, and also uncommonly pronounced for the assigned grade. Well defined in general from a nicely centered strike, only the central design elements are soft, and due primarily to a concentration of adjustment marks (as made) on the obverse behind Libertys ear. There are a few tiny planchet voids on the obverse, all as made, and grade-limiting marks are almost universally small, wispy, and singularly inconspicuous to the eye. BD Die State unrecorded/d.<p>All 1797 half eagle varieties are difficult to find, and curiously, the Small Eagle type gets rarer as the dates progress, with 1795 really the most frequently seen. This follows the reported mintages of 8,707 coins for 1795, 6,196 in 1796, and just 3,609 in 1797. The 1798 is prohibitively rare, of course, with perhaps only 300 to 600 produced bearing the Small Eagle reverse. It is believed that just seven or eight coins exist today from that issue.<p>There are four die varieties among the 1797 Small Eagle fives, and all are rather rare. It is estimated that just 20 to 25 are known of the most common variety (BD-3), while the rarest (BD-4) is represented by a single coin. The BD-2 variety offered here is the second rarest among them, with just eight to 12 survivors believed to exist (per John W. Dannreuther, 2006). The present example is the finest of which we are aware, and the only one that have received a Mint State grade from the major third party certification services. In fact, there is only one other 1797 Small Eagle, 15 Stars half eagle certified Mint State, a BD-1 Wide Date example graded MS-61 by PCGS. An exceedingly rare and fleeting bidding opportunity for the specialist, once sold it may be many years, if not decades before this coin finds its way back onto the open market.<p>Struck from the latest state of the dies of which we aware, although not described as such John Dannreuther in his work, <em>Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties</em>. The reverse is extensively cracked and corresponds to BD State d. This die had earlier been paired with a different obverse, where it was initially cracked in use, but remained solid enough to be used in this later marriage. The obverse, according to Dannreuther, should be in State b when the reverse is in State d, with a crack along the left side of Libertys head, beginning at the edge and passing between star 1 and the lowest hair curl. This is not detected on the present example. However, there is a crack well within the cap and hair curls, about a third of the way into the portrait from the back, and it is possibly what is referred to by Dannreuther. The die state matches that seen on the Harry W. Bass Core Collection example, plated both in Dannreuther and in the Bass Museum Sylloge, as well as the NGC AU-53 coin that appeared as lot 4471 in our August 2013 Chicago ANA Auction.