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1796 $2 1/2 No Stars AU53 PCGS. Bass-3002, R.5. The first ...

2003 February Long Beach Signature Sale #314

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Auction Ended On: Feb 28, 2003
Item Activity: 11 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Long Beach, CA
Legendary 1796 No Stars Capped Bust Right Quarter Eagle, An Exceptionally Well Produced and Preserved AU53 PCGS Representative
1796 $2 1/2 No Stars AU53 PCGS. Bass-3002, R.5. The first Quarter Eagles produced by the United States Mint emerged from the presses on September 22, 1796. The 66 coins delivered that day were joined by 897 examples on December 8 of that year. All 897 of these coins did not display stars on the obverse--a feature that sets survivors apart from those of the later deliveries in the Capped Bust Right Quarter Eagle series. In addition to its distinctions as a first-year coin and a one-year type, the 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle is also desirable as the first precious metal coin in U.S. history to display a heraldic eagle on the reverse.
We do not know exactly how many 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagles are extant. Past estimates of a dozen or 15-20 coins are absurdly low, and even David Akers' 1975 total of 30-40 examples seems overly optimistic. Bowers' estimate of 80-110 coins in the November 2000 catalog for part IV of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection is the most realistic figure that we have seen. When viewed in the wider context of U.S. numismatics, however, even this total is low, and the unflagging popularity and strong performance of survivors perhaps makes such debates about the number of coins extant superfluous.
There are a number of distinct striking characteristics for the 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle. Striking softness is typically encountered in the centers and at the rims, and the E in LIBERTY often reveals varying degrees of die deterioration. The present example is softly detailed over that letter, as well as at the upper right obverse and lower right reverse borders. All other features are remarkably bold for the issue. In fact, the centers are far better defined than those of the AU55 PCGS example that sold as lot 114 in Bowers and Merena's November 2000 sale of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection. The surfaces are remarkably well preserved for a circulated early gold coin with only a few wispy abrasions scattered about and no sizeable distractions. The otherwise olive-gold color yields to copper iridescence in select areas around the reverse periphery. Light adjustment marks (as produced) are noted over the E in LIBERTY, in the center of the obverse, and, to a lesser extent, in a few areas at the obverse border. The only worthwhile pedigree marker is a tiny dig in the reverse field below the left side of the U in UNITED, but one will need a loupe to discern this feature.
The appearance of a 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle in one of our sales is always an important occasion for the staff at Heritage Numismatic Auctions. It is also a noteworthy occasion for our bidders, and we anticipate significant competition for this lovely AU representative.
From The Collection of Dennis Ridings. (NGC ID# 25F2, PCGS# 7645)

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