Extremely Rare Perfect Obverse
1796 10C Good 6 PCGS. CAC. JR-1, R.8 in early die state. An
impressive example for the grade, this piece exhibits natural
grayish-tan patina on both sides, accented by hints of light blue
toning. Critical examination with magnification reveals myriad tiny
scratches and circulation marks that are expected for the grade;
they are mostly invisible to the naked eye. While considerable wear
is evident, the central obverse and reverse motifs exhibit traces
of detail, at the lower hair curls on the obverse and the eagle's
left (facing) wing on the reverse. The date, stars, LIBERTY, and
reverse legend are all complete, although the border is merged into
the top of some elements. Strict application of ANA grading
standards suggest a grade of VG8, with the PCGS grade considering
the minor imperfections on each side.
1796 JR-1 Dime, Good 6
Just three examples are known of the "perfect" obverse die state, without the usual rim break joining star 1. The other two known examples both have a slight die crack from the border to star 1, and the present piece probably has a similar crack, although it is invisible due to wear.
Obverse Die. In the date, the 1 is close to the curl, and the 6 is high and out of position, its top joined to the drapery. Star 1 has two points appearing to touch the lowest curl, the lower point touching and the upper point extremely close. Star 8 is distant from L, star 9 is slightly closer to Y, and star 15 is even closer to the drapery, but does not touch. LIBERTY is unevenly spaced with LI close, and the tops of TY extremely close. The curl point is beneath the left base of E.
State a. Only a slight crack joins star 1 to the border. No other die deterioration is evident. State b. A variable cud connects the bottom points of star 1 to the border. State c. A fine die crack crosses Liberty's shoulder to her neck and throat. The "arc-like crack" in the right obverse field that is described in the early dime book appears to be a clash mark. Several prominent clash marks are visible in the obverse fields.
Reverse Die. Leaf point below the right side of O, diagnostic for the Small Eagle reverse. The wreath has 17 leaves in the left branch, and 13 leaves in the right branch. A leaf tip joins the lower right corner of E in AMERICA, and another appears to touch the extreme left base of the final A. The tip of the left (facing) wing touches the rock.
State a. Perfect. State b. The reverse is cracked from the border through the E of AMERICA, the right branch, and the right (facing) wing tip, to join a vertical crack from the lowest inside right leaf tip to the right wing. Another crack bisects the C of AMERICA, crossing leaves into the rock. An additional crack from the right side of the eagle's breast extends across the head to the left terminal leaf. A few clash marks and other die lines may appear as additional die cracks. The order of appearance of the various reverse cracks is unknown.
1. Gem Mint State. Empire Collection (Stack's, 11/1957), lot 728; James Hayes Collection (Stack's, 10/1985), lot 16; John Whitney Collection (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1763.
2. Fine 15. Coin Galleries (11/1997), lot 2815; American Numismatic Rarities (9/2005), lot 232. In 2005 American Numismatic Rarities described the coin as "Net F-15, sharpness of VF-25 with a striated planchet and some light scratches." The cataloger continued: "Some planchet granularity and light striations may be seen, with some peripheral roughness from apparent environmental damage."
3. Good 6. The present specimen. Norman Pullen (3/1994); Ed Price.
Because the authors of Early United States Dimes 1796 - 1837 (the "dime book") recorded JR-1 first, many numismatists consider JR-1 to be the first dime variety struck. If that is true, then the early die state pieces were the "first of the first." Three of the seven known 1796 varieties are unlinked to any others, so the exact emission sequence may never be known. If minor stylistic differences could be attributed to either Robert Scot or John Smith Gardner, the actual order of die production might be attainable.
The 1796 JR-1 dime is clearly the most plentiful of seven die marriages, and it probably represents close to half the entire known population of all 1796 dimes. However, just three examples of the early die state are known without the cud at star 1, an extraordinary opportunity for the specialist.
Ex: Norman Pullen, 3/1994; Ed Price Collection (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1407.
From The Rocky Mountain Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 236B, PCGS# 4461)
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