1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle, MS63
1796 $2 1/2 No Stars MS63 NGC. BD-2, R.4. The 1796 No Stars
quarter eagle shares a reputation with its later sibling, the 1808
quarter eagle, as among the most significant and rarest gold type
coins of any denomination. Both are single-year types, with low
mintages (an estimated 963 pieces for the 1796 No Stars, and 2,710
coins for the 1808).
BD-2, Bright Yellow-Gold Example
Among the Finest Known of This One-Year Type
The 1796 No Stars quarter eagles are now known to appear in two varieties, with the Normal Arrows (BD-2) and Extended Arrows (BD-1) reverses sharing a single obverse. Although the BD-1 pairing is considerably rarer in terms of numbers known, the incredible demand for the 1796 No Stars overall, as a first-year type, lessens the price differences between the two varieties. An appearance of either variant at auction is bound to be the occasion for intense bidding on the part of multiple collectors. (This is a similar phenomenon to the 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollars, also one-year types known in two varieties.)
The companion piece to the 1796 No Stars is the 1796 With Stars quarter eagle, which is also technically a one-year type with an even lower mintage (put at 432 coins, based on delivery warrants). Even though the 1796 With Stars is the only obverse in the series with 16 stars, it is an underrated variety due to its association with the other With Stars quarter eagles (showing 13 or 14 stars), which extend through the 1807 issue.
The celebrated B. Max Mehl 1941 auction of the William Forester Dunham Collection provides an interesting comparison between the 1796 No Stars and With Stars quarter eagles during an earlier era. Lot 1904 was a 1796 No Stars, "just a shade from uncirculated, with considerable semi-proof surface, especially on reverse. The upper right part of reverse is not as bold as the rest of the coin. A beautiful specimen of this rare and valuable coin. Listed at $150.00 in very fine condition." The lot nonetheless brought only $81.50.
Lot 1905 in the Dunham Collection was a 1796 With Stars quarter eagle, which Mehl cataloged as "extremely fine, with considerable semi-proof surface. Extremely rare. Listed at $250.00." The lot brought $185.
Two Gem examples of the 1796 No Stars and With Stars from our FUN 2008 Signature provide much more recent comparisons. The finest certified 1796 No Stars MS65 PCGS (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3058, a coin pedigreed to the legendary collection of Lorin G. Parmelee, realized $1,725,000. The 1796 With Stars MS65 NGC, also the only certified Gem, brought $1,006,250 in the same auction. Clearly, the marketplace today values the 1796 No Stars more highly, given the increased emphasis and popularity of type collecting.
This high-grade example has uniformly bright yellow-gold surfaces. The centers on each side show the usual softness, and the reverse displays light, diagonal die adjustment marks. Both obverse and reverse display the small, scattered abrasions one would expect from an MS63. The only marks that might be used for pedigree purposes is a curved abrasion in the upper-right obverse field, and a shallow scrape on the reverse between STATES and OF.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25F2, PCGS# 7645)
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