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Description

1797 B-2, BB-72 Dollar, MS64
9x7 Stars, Small Letters
Only Mint State Example Known
The Bowers-Borckardt Plate Coin
Finest Known by Far

1797 $1 9x7 Stars, Small Letters MS64 NGC. B-2, BB-72, R.4. Ex: "Col." E.H.R. Green. The strike is nearly perfectly centered. Stars 7 through 9 are somewhat weakly struck, as are the centers of both sides, especially on the eagle. Delicate original champagne toning is visible over satiny luster on the obverse, contrasting against brilliant frosty luster on the reverse. Both sides exhibit vivid splashes of gold and iridescent toning, more prominent on the obverse.

Obverse Die. The obverse appears in its early die state on B-2, BB-72, and in later states on B-1, BB-73. The stars are arranged with nine stars left and seven stars right, called "7 Stars Facing" in older references, including on the Eric P. Newman envelope.

Reverse Die. The reverse is the "workhorse die" that made six different appearances on the Draped Bust, Small Eagle dollars. Four of the six varieties appear in the present offering, and each is an amazing representative. The early dollar student will welcome the opportunity to compare the die states of these four coins.

Die State. The obverse die shows slight evidence of lapping in its earliest state, the only state of the obverse seen on this variety. The reverse die is lightly lapped, in the same state as 1796 B-1, BB-66.

Condition Census. An offering of even an XF or AU example is a rare event. The 1945 World's Greatest Collection specimen was graded Fine to Very Fine. The coin in Bolender's personal reference collection was only Fine. The Amon Carter example, sold in 1984, was a nice AU coin, today graded AU55+ PCGS. Even though it falls short of Mint State, the Carter coin is one of the three finest known examples. The Norweb specimen was Fine 15, and the Eliasberg coin was a nice VF30. Harold Bareford had a significant date and major type collection of high-grade early dollars, but it lacked a 1797 B-2. Graded MS64 by NGC, the present coin is the highest graded by six full points. The Green-Newman 1797 B-2 is the ONLY Mint State example known of this very rare die marriage and the finest known by far.

Appearances. This specimen is illustrated as part of NGC's presentation of the Newman Collection at www.NGCCoin.com. The Newman specimen is the plate coin in the 1993 first edition of the Bowers-Borckardt reference, Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia. This silver dollar was recorded as MS62 in the Notable Specimens of that 1993 reference, with a note that it was "examined and graded by the author, March 1993." During preparation of the Bowers-Borckardt reference 20 years ago, Eric P. Newman kindly sent several of his early dollars for examination and photography. The chance to examine those coins helped to make that reference a success. The Newman specimen was unaccountably not listed among notable specimens in the 2013 edition of the Bowers Silver Dollar Encyclopedia.

Commentary. The 1797 silver dollars all represent major types, each represented by a single die marriage. The present Newman-Green B-2, BB-72 example of the 9x7 Stars, Small Letters is the rarest of the 1797-dated varieties. As the only Mint State example known of the B-2, BB-72, certified MS64 by NGC, this remarkable coin is certainly destined to set a new record among 1797-dated silver dollars.

Estimates of the overall rarity of the B-2, BB-72 have varied widely over the years. In the 1881 Catalogue of John W. Haseltine's Type Table of U.S. Dollars, Half Dollars & Quarter Dollars (the "Type Table" sale), Haseltine called this marriage a "very rare variety," writing:

"(Lot) 98 1797; No. 2; 7 stars facing; same die as no. 1, but there seems to be an additional curl on top of the head under letter E in "Liberty;" rev., 7 berries; 2 leaves point to first T in "States;" legend in small letters; fine; very rare variety."



Plate photos were lacking from the Type Table catalog, but it was the first specialized sale of early U.S. dollars, half dollars, and quarter dollars described by variety. A portion of Haseltine's notice for the sale read:

"In this catalogue, I offer for public competition my Type Table of the United States Dollars, Half Dollars and Quarter Dollars, correctly described as to variety and condition. In many of the varieties in the Type Table, I have met but with a single specimen, and in that case they are termed excessively rare. Particular attention has been directed to the varieties of the early dates, and it is perhaps unnecessary to state that I have no doubt quite a number of varieties will be found in the higher dates, such as the different mints and positions of figures in dates; to the latter I have not given close attention, as they are put in the die with a punch. Before deciding to sell my Type Table at auction, I had disposed of a number of the rare varieties. In order that the list may appear more uniform, I have added those in an addenda (as not being for sale) at the end of the catalogue, together with those that I have not owned, but which I have seen in other collections."


The Haseltine variety descriptions were all that collectors and dealers had to classify early silver dollars during the period between 1881 and 1950. In fact, each of Eric P. Newman's envelopes for the early dollars records the Haseltine number.

In 1950, Milferd H. Bolender published The United States Early Silver Dollars from 1794 to 1803. Bolender's reference included plate photos to help attribute die marriages. Bolender, a coin dealer from Illinois, also collected early dollars, assembling over the decades an extensive reference collection. His collection of early dollars by die marriage was sold at public auction in February 1952 in his own 183rd Auction Sale.

Bolender called the B-2 die marriage very scarce, rating it R.4 (76-200 pieces known). In 1950 Bolender also correctly noted, for the first time, the other five uses of the reverse die used in striking the B-2, BB-72:

"OBVERSE From same die as B-1
REVERSE Small letters. From same die as 1795 B-14; 1796 B-1, B-2 and B-3; and 1798 B-2."



For many years, early dollar collectors pointed to the February 28, 1797 Mint delivery warrant of 342 coins, and quoted that quantity as the original mintage of this variety. Others have suggested that the entire 7,776-coin production of silver dollars in 1797 were examples of this die marriage. Neither is likely true, and the mintage was probably somewhere between those extremes. Today, perhaps 150 to 200 examples survive, but few grade better than XF40.

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 @ $125.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 24X4, PCGS# 6866)

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Auction Dates
November, 2013
15th-16th
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