Historic 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle, BD-2, MS61
1796 $2 1/2 No Stars MS61 PCGS. CAC. Breen-6113, BD-2, R.4.
Bass-Dannreuther Obverse State c / Reverse State b. The 1796 No
Stars quarter eagle is the only 18th century American gold or
silver coin issue that lacks stars within the obverse rim. The lack
of stars makes the coin extremely appealing to collectors, both
aesthetically and because it marks a one-year type. Why were there
no 1795 No Stars half eagles, the first year of that denomination?
No answer is readily forthcoming.
The Finest We Have Offered in Three Years
The specific reasons for the design choice to place no stars on the obverse of this smaller denomination, likely by designer Robert Scot, are lost today in the mists of time, but the date is significant; Tennessee joined the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796, and the Mint was in process of a conversion from "one star per state" to "one star each for the Original 13." Note that the 1796 With Stars quarter eagles had 16 stars, while the 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollars -- also a one-year type -- had 15 stars. The 1797 quarter eagles were back to the "Original 13."
The lack of stars gives the obverse design an unusual appeal in the cameo appearance of the right-facing, turbaned Liberty occupying the center with the broad, open fields surrounding her on either side.
The two varieties of No Stars quarter eagles share a common obverse, with the much-more-available BD-2 having the arrows on the reverse extending only to the N in UNITED. On the much-rarer BD-1, the arrows extend further, to beneath the I. The BD-1 is a die pairing that Harry W. Bass, Jr. "rediscovered" it, long after it was first noticed by Edgar Adams.
The relative mintage figures are skewed, as expected, heavily in favor of the BD-2 over the BD-1, with Bass-Dannreuther estimating a mintage of 897 pieces for the BD-2 against 66 for the BD-1.
There is also a 1796 With Stars variety -- the Mint was clearly experimenting with this new first-year gold denomination -- but the 1796 With Stars as a type belongs to the series of similar issues that extends to 1807.
The present 1796 No Stars quarter eagle is of the BD-2 variety, showing the Normal Arrows reverse, with a noticeable "lump break" above the tip of the eagle's right (facing) wing. A small die break joins the bottoms of BER, and some die clashing (likely caused during the striking of the previous BD-1 Extended Arrows pieces) on the obverse produces some light parallel raised die striations visible in the central devices at several points. The lowest hair curl is complete.
This piece is absolutely Mint State, with full, complete luster throughout. Moreover, it possesses that marvelous "original skin" or "crusty gold" look of early, unfooled-with U.S. gold coins. Deep reddish-orange centers, more so on the obverse, cede to even deeper violet hues at the extreme margins. A few minor planchet adjustment marks appear on each side, lightly so on the obverse, a bit more prominently in the shield area of the reverse, where the strike is somewhat weakened as a result. This lovely coin would likely grade a point or two finer were it not for a trio of small gouges in the left portion of the eagle's neck, sufficient to move small bits of metal. While this phenomenon is strictly localized to that area, it does require singular mention. Having said that, we believe that potential bidders who inspect this coin in person will absolutely love it for what it is, among the most historic single U.S. gold coin issues, and one seldom seen at this grade level. In fact, this MS61 PCGS coin is the highest-graded example we have offered in three years. Population: 3 in 61, 4 finer (7/11).
Heritage in the past has had the privilege of offering several memorable 1796 No Stars quarter eagles, including the "finest of the first," a Gem 1796 No Stars BD-2 pedigreed to the legendary Parmelee Collection that we offered in our FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3058, which realized $1,725,000. An MS61 PCGS specimen in our ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1451, realized $276,000, and a second MS61 PCGS example in our Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), brought $322,000.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25F2, PCGS# 7645)
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