1795 B-5, BB-27 Dollar, MS65
1795 $1 Flowing Hair, Three Leaves MS65 NGC. CAC. B-5, BB-27,
R.1. Ex: "Col." E.H.R. Green. Faint adjustment marks appear in
the obverse center, but the details are otherwise boldly defined on
this Gem Flowing Hair dollar. Slight weakness on the eagle's breast
feathers corresponds to the obverse adjustment marks. The surfaces
exhibit lovely, fully brilliant satin luster with delicate original
gold and iridescent toning that intensifies near the borders. The
luster seen between the border dentils is seldom encountered on
any early dollars.
Second Finest B-5, BB-27 Known
Tied for Third Finest Three Leaves Dollar
Obverse Die. The obverse die of B-5, BB-27 appears nowhere else in the early dollar series. This is the Head of 1795 with a shoulder loop below the bust. Liberty's flowing hair ends in six curls with the middle two closely spaced. All of the stars are distant from the devices and letters. A diagonal, raised bar near the top hair curl on the obverse is an identifying feature seen on all surviving examples of this variety.
Reverse Die. The reverse appears on B-6, BB-25; B-12, BB-26; and B-5, BB-27. The eagle has five tail feathers, and the wreath has three leaves below each wing. There are two berries below the first T in STATES, and that is diagnostic for the reverse die among Three Leaves dollars.
Die State. This piece, in an early die state, shows a faint die line from the left stem end toward the border. Bowers describes it as a die crack, but our own experience suggests it is common to all die states and is an errant engraving line. No clash marks or die cracks are visible; this is a "perfect dies" coin, one of the first examples of the B-5 die marriage produced.
Condition Census. The Newman Collection example is among the finest known for any 1795 Flowing Hair, Three Leaves silver dollar. It is the second-finest example of B-5, BB-27 known to us behind the Montgomery specimen, an MS66 NGC piece from a British collection before its appearance in a 1976 Bowers and Ruddy sale. The Eliasberg coin and three or four others are graded MS64. Perhaps 50 to 75 Mint State examples survive in all.
Appearances. This specimen is illustrated as part of NGC's presentation of the Newman Collection at www.NGCCoin.com.
Commentary. Robert Scot (1745-1823) was appointed the first chief engraver of the U.S. Mint on November 20, 1793. The Scottish-born engraver, formerly a watchmaker, remained at his Mint post until his death on November 1, 1823, serving three weeks shy of 30 years. It is certain that Scot engraved most of the dies for the 1794- and 1795-dated silver dollars, with some help from his assistant engraver, John Smith Gardner. Today, the designs and dies are all attributed to Scot, as it is impossible to distinguish between the work of Scot and Gardner.
In the 1790s, Scot and his staff utilized design punches to aid their work. Of course, the engraver had to create the various punches that he intended to use. Those punches included the main device punches and various individual punches for letters, numerals, stars, and leaves. Sets of those punches had to be prepared for each denomination, and each set of punches may have taken several weeks to produce. Ron Landis, formerly of the modern-day Gallery Mint, writes: "Even though the engraver may do some of the final details in a working die, his main work is in the preparation of all the hubs, master dies, punches, and punch matrices."
Once the punches were made, the die sinker or assistant engraver entered the main devices in the working die, and then completed the die with the individual star, letter, and digit punches. There was likely some additional hand engraving done to finish the die, such as strengthening of hair elements, or the addition of berries and extra leaves. With access to all of the punches, a single working die could be completed in about one day, or two days for a die pair. For the 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollars, 10 obverse dies and 11 reverse dies were utilized, taking about three weeks to complete.
For the Flowing Hair dollars, there were two portrait punches, two eagle punches, and two wreath punches. The portrait punches are identified today as Head of 1794 and Head of 1795. The Head of 1794 has a single bottom bust line and the Head of 1795 has a doubled bust line (shoulder loop) below the back part of the neck, or above the 17 in the date. There are several other minor differences.
Two eagle punches are identified as Eagle I (six tail feathers) and Eagle II (five tail feathers), with several minor differences. The count of tail feathers easily distinguishes these two punches. Perhaps the best known punches for the Flowing Hair dollars are the wreath punches. Today, these have either two leaves under each wing, or three leaves under each wing. The wreath styles are collected as separate Guide Book varieties. For variety specialists, the combinations of different obverse and reverse punches helps to establish the emission sequence, and simplify variety attribution.
The Eric P. Newman specimen combines the Head of 1795 with the Five Tail Feathers eagle, and the Three Leaves wreath. Liberty's portrait is deeply sunk in the die, resulting in particularly bold relief on the obverse. This makes the B-5 a popular choice for type collectors seeking a 1795 Flowing Hair, Three Leaves dollar.
A total of 19 die marriages are identified for 1795 Flowing Hair dollars (B-1 through B-13, B-16, and B-18 through B-22). Six of the 19 have the Three Leaves reverse. Four of those are unknown in Mint State: B-6, B-12, B-19, and B-22, leaving only two die marriages available to acquire a high-grade specimen: the B-5 and the B-7. The current auction record for any 1795 Flowing Hair dollar is $1,265,000 for an MS66 PCGS example that was sold in December 2005 for four times the presale estimate. We anticipate similar strong bidding for the Eric P. Newman example.
Provenance. Ex: "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $60.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 24WZ, PCGS# 6852)
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