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1796 $2 1/2 Stars AU58 PCGS. Breen-2, Breen-6114, Bass-3003, R.5. Housed in an older green-label PCGS holder, this coin is ...

2006 August Denver, CO Signature & Platinum Night Auction #414

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Auction Ended On: Aug 14, 2006
Item Activity: 5 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Denver, CO
Amazing 1796 With Stars Quarter Eagle
1796 $2 1/2 Stars AU58 PCGS. Breen-2, Breen-6114, Bass-3003, R.5. Housed in an older green-label PCGS holder, this coin is nothing short of amazing. Both sides have clash marks that are arguably the heaviest that exist on any U.S. coin. These clash marks and other die characteristics are described in detail below.
It is believed that the 1796 With Stars quarter eagles were struck in late December 1796, or in early January 1797. The Chief Coiner made a delivery of quarter eagles to the Mint Treasurer on January 14, 1797. That delivery consisted of 432 coins, and this quantity is the mintage figure that is now associated with this issue, and published in most standard references. Our discussion of mintages in the 1796 No Stars offering, above, provides some statistical support to back up this assertion. Today, approximately 45 examples of this variety are known, similar to the 1797 quarter eagle, and these two issues represent the two rarest issues of the early quarter eagle series, although some individual die varieties, such as the 1804 13 Stars variety, are rarer.
The 1796 With Stars quarter eagle has some intriguing die characteristics that are seldom seen in the early U.S. numismatic arena. The 16 obverse stars are arranged with eight on each side, while most 16 stars coinage has the stars divided with nine or even 10 stars on the left and the balance on the right. All of the obverse stars are oriented point to point, rather than the usual arrangement of single points toward the border. The only other instance where this has occurred is the 1794 dollar, and that coin only has the point to point arrangement on the right. On the reverse, the shield is remarkably wide, with eight vertical stripes. Only the quarter eagles and half eagles struck from 1795 through 1797 have such a count. All other Heraldic Eagle coins have either six or seven stripes, usually six.
This is a remarkable specimen for both its quality and its die state. Both sides have fully brilliant green-gold surfaces with prooflike fields resulting from die lapping that removed some design detail, such as the lowest hair curls on the obverse, which now appear as mere strands of hair. Just a trace of wear is evident on the highest points of the obverse, appearing as pale orange color. Faint hairlines are visible in the fields on each side, along with a few insignificant scratches. Slight adjustment marks are evident through the shield.
The most intriguing aspect of this coin, from a numismatic standpoint, is the die state. The obverse die is cracked through most of the stars on the left, extending lightly to the tops of LIB. Another crack from the lower left corner of the B continues vertically through Liberty's cap and hair to a point left of the neck. Short cracks join stars 3, 5, and 7 to the border. Both dies are heavily and extensively clashed. On the obverse, both wings can be seen with surprising clarity. Essentially all of the words UNITED STATES OF can be seen through the stars on the left and the date. The arrowheads are boldly visible behind the cap, just below the L. A prominent star is visible by the neck. Several of the clouds can be seen around the lower part of the bust. The reverse clash marks include a complete outline of the bust, including the prominent forecurl that is visible just right of the shield, nearly all of LIBERTY below and adjacent to the eagle's tail, all of the left side stars through UNITED ST, and all of the date behind TES.
The combination of die state, rarity, and overall quality establishes this specimen as one of the most important coins in this sale.
From The Alpine Zephyr Collection.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25F3, PCGS# 7647)

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