Condition Census 1797 JR-1 16 Stars Dime, MS621797 10C 16 Stars MS62 NGC. JR-1, R.4. Typical of 1797 16 Stars dimes, the stars at the left obverse are weakly defined, while all other details are boldly impressed. Only a hint of weakness is evident on the eagle's breast feathers at the center of the reverse. The attractive silver-gray obverse has splashes of pale gold and powder blue, while the reverse is mostly deeper gold. Satiny luster is present on both sides, with slightly reflective obverse fields. The nicely centered impression has full obverse and reverse border details. A darker toning line between the left stem and U matches the plates in the Auction '80 and Miles catalogs.
Die State. The obverse has the usual die crack seen on nearly all examples, from the border through stars 2 and 1, the hair curl, tops of the 1 and 7, the lower edge of the drapery, and finally to the border below star 16. Evidence of die lapping is visible at the lower hair curls. Minor die rust is visible on the reverse.
Condition Census. This piece, earlier from Auction '80, is probably the second or third finest known 1797 JR-1 dime. We handled an NGC MS63 example in our September 1998 sale, the only other Mint State 1797 dime that we have offered. The James A. Stack coin and the Pittman specimen are the only other top grade pieces that we know of. The authors of the dime book called this piece the finest they had seen when that reference was published.
Appearances. Illustrated in the catalog for Auction '80, and earlier in the Miles sale catalog.
Obverse Die. 16 stars are arranged with nine left and seven right, diagnostic. Star 1 appears to touch curl 2, and star 10 joins the Y. Star 9 is distant from the L, and star 16 is distant from the drapery. Nearly all of the stars on both sides are joined, due to a shortage of available space for so many stars. Stars 1, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16 all show evidence of repunching. Robert Hilt suggested that the 16 obverse stars were all repunched over smaller stars. The date is closely spaced with the serif of 1 lightly joined to the curl, and the top right corner of the second 7 touching the drapery. LIBERTY is evenly spaced with the hair wave centered below the E.
State a. Perfect die, may not exist. State b. Cracked from the border through stars 2 and 1, the hair curl, tops of the 1 and 7, the lower edge of the drapery, and finally to the border below star 16. State c. The area below the die crack forms a retained cud. State d. The entire area below the state b crack is a full rim break.
Reverse Die. A leaf tip ends below the right upright of E in AMERICA, diagnostic. The left branch of the wreath has 18 leaves and five berries, and the right branch has 13 leaves. A leaf of the lowest inside pair in the left is a mere outline, and it is probably only visible on high grade specimens. The lowest outer leaf appears to touch the bottom of the U, and a leaf touches the base of the first T in STATES, below the left base. The leaf tip below the upright of E in AMERICA just misses touching, and another leaf joins the right side of the C. AME are extremely close, and ER join at the base. The M is low, its left and right bases below the A and E.
State a. Scattered die rust. State b. Heavy clash marks.
Heritage Commentary. Following conventional numismatic thought, it is believed that the 16 Stars variety was coined before the 13 Stars variety. The earlier dies had additional stars added for new states in the union, until Mint engravers realized they would be unable to continue adding stars as the country expanded. A decision was made to return to 13 stars, representing the original 13 states. Reverse die rust is less advanced on this piece than on the 13 Stars variety to follow, confirming earlier beliefs.
Mint State examples of the 1797 dimes are extremely rare, especially in comparison to the relatively commonplace 1796 dimes in similar grades. The NGC Census Report shows just 12 examples of both varieties in Mint State grades, compared to 84 Mint State 1796 dimes on the same report. Of course, the figures for both years include an uncertain number of resubmissions.
Consignor Commentary. When Stu offered this to me in 2002, I was very pleased to be able to upgrade the Lovejoy coin. The JR plate coin is a nice AU from the Lovejoy Collection. I purchased that coin at the Lovejoy sale and owned it for many years. The only one I have seen which I like better than the current coin was the James A. Stack coin, a very Choice Uncirculated coin. The Pittman coin, also Choice Uncirculated, has a very distracting irregularity in the right obverse field near the chin. That coin is otherwise exceptional, but I knew I would never be happy with it.
Provenance. R.L. Miles, Jr. (Stack's, 4/1969), lot 597; Auction '80 (Stack's, 8/1980), lot 1126; later, Stuart Levine (1/2002).
From The Ed Price Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 236C, PCGS# 4462)
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