The 1796 “LIKERTY” half dime is not a separate variety. It is a die state of the normal date 1796 half dime. Die states are markers that advanced collectors note within die varieties. They mark the deterioration of the dies as they were used. Quite often these markers are noted by die breaks, weak strikes and other marks or losses of detail.
The “B” letter punch that was used for the word “LIBERTY” was defective. It was virtually open at both the top and the bottom, and only thin lines appear at the top and bottom of the letter. The die maker may have added these thin lines after he punched in defective "B." As more and more coins were struck, the thin lines that formed the "B" faded until the one on the bottom virtually disappeared. This later die state became known as the "LIKERTY variety." I have posted close up pictures of the two die states.
The question is does the "LIKERTY" die state really exist? And if it does exist, what is the drop off point where the "normal" die state becomes the "LIKERTY" die state? Logan and McCloskey in their outstanding book, "Federal Half Dimes 1792 - 1837" do not even mention the "LIKERTY" die state. They cite the usual die breaks as markers. If anyone would like to advance an opinion on this, you may find me as "Billjones" on the chat boards. My view is that all “normal date” 1796 half dimes are this die state, but given the tradition that there is a “LIBERTY” die state, I have collected both types.
I have collected the early half dimes for more than 35 years, and the 1796 half dime has been the most frustrating date for me. Every time I spotted nice one many years ago I did not of the money, or I was concerned about what I could get for the “problem” piece I had in my collection. Finally more than twenty years of searching I have this lovely example. It has all the features that you could expect from a high grade early coin, a sharp strike for the type, a light brush of wear, original surfaces and nice color.