1796 Capped Bust Quarter Eagle, AU53
1796 $2 1/2 No Stars on Obverse, BD-2, R.4, AU53 PCGS.
Bass-Dannreuther Die State c/b. Quarter eagles were authorized by
the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, but the first two and a half dollar
gold coins were only struck four years later. At the time, they
represented the nation's smallest gold denomination and held that
title until the gold dollar was introduced in 1849. The small size
of the new quarter eagles challenged a traditional practice at the
early Mint, that of adding new stars for every state that joined
the burgeoning Union. By 1796, the number of American states had
grown to 16 -- too many to represent with stars around the obverse
without throwing off the balance of the design.
Popular No Stars, BD-2 Variety
First-Year Mintage of 897 Pieces
A simple solution was reached: All obverse stars were eliminated, making this the first silver or gold coinage issue without such devices on that side. Robert Hilt has suggested an alternative reason for the lack of stars. He notes four 1796 quarter eagle obverse and reverse dies were produced, that the star punch broke after the first obverse had been punched with 16 stars, and that the defective starless obverse was used first. However, the Dannreuther-Bass reference dismisses the possibility, stating "there is no reason to believe that they would not use a die that already had stars on it because the star punch had broken. They could have obtained a star punch in a few days from an outside source!"
The 1796 No Stars Obverse quarter eagle was produced in the reported amount of 963 pieces between two known varieties. BD-1 is believed to represent the first delivery of 66 quarter eagles on September 21, 1796. The variety shows arrowheads extending past the left foot of the N in UNITED. BD-1 examples are extremely rare with only six or so pieces known. The remaining 897 coins are of the BD-2 variety, issued on December 8, 1796, showing the arrowheads in line with the foot of the N. Probably 100 to 125 BD-2 quarter eagles survive in all grades.
The present coin is a pleasing AU53 example that shows just a touch of wear on the well-detailed design elements. Like most coins from this die state, this piece displays some incompleteness of detail on the obverse, due to lapping, and a spidery obverse die crack from the rim at 9 o'clock. The antique-gold surfaces exhibit only minor abrasions, but some planchet adjustment marks are evident on the eagle and shield. Traces of original mint luster are evident and the overall presentation is most attractive. Population: 9 in 53, 30 finer (6/16).Population: 9 in 53, 30 finer (6/16).
From The Elbert Henry Gary Collection, Part II. (NGC ID# 25F2, Variety PCGS# 45501, Base 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.
View all of [The Elbert Henry Gary Collection, Part II ]
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