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Exceptional Near-Mint 1796 Quarter, B-2
A Wonderfully Toned Example

1796 25C AU58 PCGS. B-2, R.3. High 6. The B-1 and B-2 die marriages for the 1796 quarter, the only two known, are known as the Low 6 and High 6 varieties, respectively, although there is little perceptible difference between the positioning of the 6. The two obverses share a common reverse. It is much easier to distinguish between the two obverse dies by looking at the positioning of the 1 in the date and star 15. On the Low 6, the 1 touches the lowest hair curl; star 15 virtually touches the forward bust tip. On the High 6, there is noticeable separation between the 1 and the curl; star 15 is visibly separated from the bust.
Steve Tompkins' Early United States Quarters 1796-1838, published in 2008, is a valuable update to Ard Browning's The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States 1796-1838, first published in 1925 and itself updated in 1992 by Walter Breen. Tompkins rates the B-2, High 6 die marriage R.3, compared to the R.4 rating for the B-1, Low 6 dies.
There were a total of 6,146 quarters apparently struck in four deliveries, the last dated at the end of February 1797. We nonetheless know that those were 1796-dated coins, since no more quarters of any date were struck until 1804. Tompkins surmises that two of the four warrants, totaling 4,330 coins, were struck of the B-2 first, in April and May 1796. He surmises that the last two warrants, the one mentioned above and one from June 1796, were of the B-1 die marriage, totaling 1,816 coins. From die state evidence--the reverse die crack that forms on the B-1 coins, after that die was used for B-2--we know that the B-2s came first. If Tompkins' guesswork is correct, it would mean that the B-2s constituted 70% of the total mintage, with the rarer B-1s the remaining 30%.
However, the B-2s, having been struck first, were likely saved in greater quantities than the B-1 coins, a conclusion that the surviving populations today seem to bear out. Many of the B-2 1796 quarters in high grade are seen with prooflike surfaces.
The present near-Mint State piece is not prooflike, but it nonetheless boasts exceptional eye appeal. The centers are rose-colored, with deep blue around the obverse rim and scattered blue around the reverse. The obverse is particularly well struck, with strong hair definition, and the early die state shows none of the cracks that appear later. The reverse shows the typical lack of detail on the eagle's head, breast feathers, leg, and upper wing. One shallow scratch extends from the chin into the lower right obverse field. Population: 17 in 58, 32 finer (6/10).
From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 23RA, PCGS# 5310)

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Auction Dates
August, 2010
11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
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