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    Attractive, Rare 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle
    AU58, Breen-6113, BD-2

    1796 $2 1/2 No Stars AU58 PCGS. Breen-6113, BD-2. R.4. This is the more "available" of the two varieties of 1796 No Stars quarter eagle that pairs one obverse die with two reverse dies. On BD-2, the arrowheads do not extend beyond the N of UNITED, with the lowest arrow point directly beneath the left stand of N.
    The first U.S. quarter eagles were the 66 coins delivered on September 21, 1796 pursuant to Warrant 75. John W. Dannreuther and Harry W. Bass, Jr. write in their treatise on Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties: A Study of Die States, 1795-1834:

    "Harry Bass believed that the 1796 No Stars coins of this delivery undoubtedly were the exceedingly rare variety with the arrowheads extending past the N of UNITED about to the left foot of I (variety BD-1). The common obverse die (it was later used for the other No Stars variety, BD-2) was in its earliest state for the four currently known BD-1 coins, these without clashing or die cracks and before the die was lapped. This proved to Bass that these coins from this rare die combination were struck before the more readily available variety (BD-2) of 1796 No Stars quarter eagles."

    Dannreuther and Bass go on to say that Warrant 77 for 897 quarter eagles was issued on December 8, 1796, and is thought to consist exclusively of the BD-2 1796 No Stars variety. They also mention, however, that some of this mintage may have been for the 1796 with Obverse Stars issue.
    Walter Breen, in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins points out three distinctions of the 1796 No Stars quarter eagle:

    "It is the first precious metal coin without stars issued for circulation by the USA prior to 1836; it is the first ever to show the heraldic eagle, which would become standard on all silver and gold denominations 1798-1807; it is the earliest made showing 16 reverse stars honoring Tennessee's admission"

    Breen goes on to say:

    "The dies show evidence of careless haste, suggesting time pressure. Though documentation is lacking, quarter eagles may have been included in presentation sets commemorating the admission, June 1, 1796. Prooflike presentation coins of this date are known of all other denominations above the cent except the half eagle."

    Why did the first 1796 quarter eagle have no obverse stars? This, of course, is anyone's guess. In a November 11, 2003 Numismatic News article titled "1796 U.S. $2.50 Gold Comes in Two Varieties," Paul Green suggests that this may have been an artistic decision, or it might have reflected a rush to quickly produce some quarter eagles, or a lack of manpower. Whatever the reason, the 1796 No Stars is a significant one-year type coin that is lacking in most early U.S. design-type collections. PCGS and NGC have certified just over 100 examples ranging from VF20 to MS65, and some of these are likely resubmissions.
    The peach-gold surfaces of the near-Mint State offering presented in this sale display traces of light green. Both sides retain a fair amount of luster, and are remarkably clean for a coin that saw some circulation. The design elements are nicely centered on the planchet, and exhibit relatively strong definition, though the eagle's breast and neck show the typical incompleteness of feather detail. Light diagonal adjustment marks located in the center of Liberty's portrait slant from the upper left to the lower right. These are the only pedigree identifiers apparent on the coin. This is an excellent opportunity for early gold specialists or advanced type collectors. Population: 14 in 58, 7 finer (11/08).(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# 25F2, PCGS# 7645)

    Weight: 4.37 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 809

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