Finest Known 1796 JR-6 Dime, MS64 PL1796 10C MS64 Prooflike NGC. JR-6, R.3. An impeccable prooflike near-Gem that most observers consider fully MS65 or finer. Pale gold toning over champagne surfaces, the reverse with additional blue and rose near the border. The design elements are full, even at the centers, including complete breast feathers. The surfaces have a few microscopic abrasions, probably explaining the conservative grade that NGC assigned. In the Bareford catalog, Stack's mentioned that in the past this coin was "claimed to be Brilliant Proof."
Die State. The obverse has a heavy horizontal die crack through the date, with a vertical crack from the border through the left side of the 9. This vertical crack extends through the drapery, curving up the neck to the center dot, continuing faintly through the hair, and entirely through the left field to star 8, although it is barely visible when it reaches the star. A curved die line from the forehead through the upper hair is not a die crack. The reverse has a crack between ST to the left wing and eagle's breast, another from the ribbon bow to the center dot and the eagle's breast, and another through the M, right branch, eagle's wing, and also to the eagle's breast. Another crack joins the base of AMER.
Condition Census. The two finest survivors are this piece and the Eliasberg specimen.
Appearances. Plated in the Bareford and Whitney catalogs.
Obverse Die. Every letter of LIBERTY is completely separated, diagnostic. The date has the 1 close to the curl and the top of the 6 all but touching the drapery. Star 1 has two points separated from the low curl, but so close to the curl they appear to touch on worn examples. Stars 1 and 2 are slightly closer and stars 7 and 8 are slightly farther than other stars on the right. Star 8 is distant from L, star 9 is very close to the top of Y, and star 15 is distant from the bust. Stars 10 through 14 are all extremely close.
State a. Perfect die, may not exist. State b. Cracked through the date, eventually becoming heavy. State c. An additional vertical crack to the drapery, eventually to star 8.
Reverse Die. Tiny outer berry between D and S, diagnostic. The dime book states that there is no outer berry in this location, but examination of this piece shows a tiny berry, less than half the size of other berries, beneath the leaf tip between D and S. The left branch has 19 leaves and four berries, and the right branch has 13 leaves. Several of the leaves in the left branch are fragmented. Leaves in the right branch touch the left base of the first A, the left base of the R, and the right base of the I.
State a. Perfect die, may not exist. State b. Several die cracks as described above. The order of appearance is not firmly established.
Heritage Commentary. Like JR-1 and JR-2, this variety is not die-linked with any others. The dime book authors chose to place it at the end of the series. Alternatively, Walter Breen considered it to be the first of all 1796 dimes. Placing this variety first in the emission sequence, Breen felt that specially prepared presentation pieces exist, suggesting that at least a dozen survive. He wrote: "The presentation pieces are from perfect dies, without cracks. A couple of those in WGC (F.C.C. Boyd collection) had earmarks of light double striking, suggesting that they indeed might have been deliberately given two blows apiece from the dies to bring up the design. If so, any such coins would qualify as proofs, given the other characteristics (surfaces and vividness of impression)." While this Breen commentary is well and good, the present cataloger and the consignor both fail to recall seeing any examples of the variety from perfect dies.
Consignor Commentary. This is my favorite of the 1796 dimes. I clearly remember Stu [Levine] calling me from Baltimore to tell me that Tony [Terranova] had this coin available and recommending that I purchase it. I understood that it was the spectacular Bareford coin from the Whitney sale and agreed. Although I had not seen the coin since 1999, I had learned to trust Stu's judgment. I am comfortable that this is the finest known. I believe that Whitney was being conservative when he agreed to call this tied with the Eliasberg coin. However, at worst it is tied for the finest known. This coin is listed as finest seen in the dime book. The dime book indicates its grade as MS-67! Alan Lovejoy and Bill Subjack, who wrote the draped bust dime section of the dime book, were both conservative graders. I strongly believe this coin was undergraded by NGC.
Provenance. James Kelly (privately, 10/1951); Harold Bareford (Stack's, 10/1981), lot 133; John Whitney (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1771; Anthony Terranova; Stuart Levine (3/2004).
From The Ed Price Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 236B, PCGS# 4461)
Weight: 2.70 grams
Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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