Stunning 1799 No Berries Silver Dollar
1799 $1 Normal Date, No Berries MS66 PCGS. B-11, BB-161,
R.3. This stunning Premium Gem is extraordinary for its quality
and aesthetic appeal, quite possibly the finest known 1799
silver dollar of any die variety. The surfaces exhibit soft,
frosty silver luster on both sides, disturbed only by a few
extremely small ticks on the obverse device, none that require
individual discussion. Both sides are fully brilliant, with ivory
surfaces enhanced by champagne, pale yellow, and powder-blue. The
strike from the Mint's screw-press is sharp and nicely centered.
Both sides have full and complete dentils around the entire
circumference. On the obverse, each and every star is fully
detailed and all of the fine hair strands are complete and
sharp--even the tiny secondary strands between the main locks. Like
the obverse, all of the reverse design details are full and
complete. All stars in the constellation are full, including
complete centers. This example clearly illustrates the smaller size
of reverse star 1 at the left end of the top row, obviously the
result of a shallow punch by the engraver when this die was
created. Each and every feather in the eagle's wings is sharp and
fully delineated, the breast feathers are complete and clear, and
the tail feathers are fully present. Similarly, the leaves in the
olive branch, the arrows to the left, and all of the shield lines
are boldly defined. Strong peripheral flowlines on the reverse have
begun to draw the tops of each letter toward the border.
B-11, BB-161, MS66
Possibly the Finest 1799 Dollar Known
Another result of the sharp strike is the appearance of the die state details. Simply stated, the obverse is clashed and the reverse is cracked, but clearly more information is necessary. The obverse has prominent "waves" above the date, the result of clash marks from the clouds on the reverse. The left and right obverse fields clearly display clash marks from the eagle's wings, especially among some obverse stars. Other clash marks can be seen from the eagle's tail feathers, the shield, the arrows, and the olive branch.
Only a few light clash marks are evident on the reverse, primarily from the drapery through OF. The reverse is more notable for its extensive web of die cracks. A heavy crack from the border to the fourth wing feather on the left joins the right side of D in UNITED. This heavy crack continues across the wing feather and connects with the top of the scroll to the first U, where it crosses the field to star 12 and to the eagle's beak and head. A branch of this crack crosses three dentils over D and continues through the remaining letters of UNITED to the arrow feathers. Another branch crosses the curve of D and the field to the ribbon end below E, continuing through the field to the shield, where it faintly reaches the left side of the third vertical stripe. A further branch of the first crack extends upward through the top three wing feathers, curving down through cloud 1 where it joins a final crack. This last crack is extremely faint from cloud 2 to stars 7 and 12. This die marriage represents the last use of this reverse die, and the present example is certainly a late state of this final use.
The reverse is known as the No Berries die, lacking any trace of berries in the olive branch. One berry stem can be seen, but there is no evidence of actual berries, despite Bolender's contention that one tiny berry could be seen. When this reverse die was engraved, it actually did have berries, as seen in its earlier uses for BB-158 and 159. After its use for these two varieties, the die was lapped to remove certain clash marks or other tiny defects; the process also removed the berries and weakened other details.
While this variety is quite common, with a total known population of about 400 coins, it is extremely difficult to locate in the highest grades. In 1993, when Dave Bowers published his Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, only four Mint State examples were listed under the "Notable Specimens" section. They include:
--The F.C.C. Boyd specimen (Numismatic Gallery, 1945), which later appeared in the Harold Bareford sale;
--The Davis-Graves example (Stack's, 1954), which went to A.J. Ostheimer;
--The S.S. Forest, Jr. Collection coin (Stack's, 1972); and
--An example sold by Hollinbeck-Kagin in their June 1970 sale.
The Boyd specimen was listed as MS63 and the others each as MS60. Of course, this example matches the plates for none of those pieces and is easily the finest known example of this die variety. In fact, it may be the finest known 1799 silver dollar of any die variety. Population: 2 in 66, 0 finer (10/10).
Ex: Charlotte Signature (Heritage, 3/2007), lot 889, which realized $379,500. Listed in the 2011 Guide Book as a record price for the 1799 Normal Date variety.
From The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 24X7, PCGS# 6878)
Weight: 26.96 grams
Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Joseph C. Thomas Collection, Part Two ]
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