Elusive 1796 BD-3 With Stars Quarter Eagle, MS62
1796 $2 1/2 Stars MS62 NGC. BD-3, R.5. This piece
shows soft detailing in the center of each side and there are a few
light adjustment marks located in the center of the reverse. Struck
from a slightly rough planchet; there are tiny planchet flecks out
of each side and pronounced die file marks are seen above and
through the tops of S(TATE)S. Rich reddish-orange patina covers
each side of this attractive coin with bright, semiprooflike fields
apparent (especially so on the reverse).
Die State. A faint die crack connects all stars on the left with LIBE. Short cracks or die lines join stars 3, 5, and 7 to the border. The reverse has a short die crack from the right arm of the first T in STATES to the right base of that letter. Parallel lines through TATE are constant in all die states.
Condition Census. This piece is one of just half a dozen or so Mint State specimens.
Appearances. Plated in the 1982 Eliasberg catalog, the 1999 Bowers and Merena catalog, and our 2005 FUN catalog.
Obverse Die. Sixteen stars are arranged point to point. This unusual arrangement is similar to the orientation on 1794 silver dollars but on no other early U.S. coins. Serif of the 1 is very close to the hair curl, bottom of the 7 almost touches the right side of a dentil, and the top of the 6 overlaps the drapery. In LIBERTY, IBE are more closely spaced than other letters, the L is slightly low, and the Y is high and leans right. Eight stars to the left and eight to the right. Stars 11, 12, 13, and 14 are more widely spaced than others. A long triangular dentil is positioned over the center of the T.
State a. Lightly cracked through all stars at the left, to the tops of LIBE. State b. Lapped die with the hair curls shortened. Stars 3 and 5 are connected to dentils by short die cracks. State c. Heavier obverse cracks with clash marks through the date and lower right stars. A partially bisecting crack from the upright of B extends through the cap and into the hair curls. State d. Extremely heavy clash marks in the fields.
Reverse Die. Several prominent die scratches extend through the tops of TATE with one through the middle of that A. The legend is well-spaced with most letters distant from the border. The lower right curve of the D joins the fourth feather. AT are high, the final S touches a cloud, and the F touches a cloud. The final A is close to the claw and stem, touching neither. The branch has four berries and the top berry is merged with the upper edge of the leaf below R. The lowest of eight arrows is below the space between U and N, and the longest arrow is below the right foot of the left base of N. Sixteen stars appear to have been placed at random. A star at the right has two points merged with the top of the wing. A double dentil is found below the left side of the eagle's tail.
State a. Perfect. State b. Prominent clash marks.
Heritage Commentary. While the No Stars design of 1796 is the higher visibility coin with its one-year type design, the With Stars variant is actually considerably rarer. Less than half as many With Stars were struck as No Stars (432 vs. 963 pieces), and since the With Stars has the same design type as the successive years through 1807, it is an overlooked issue among early quarter eagles. The estimates of the number of survivors range from as few as 20 to 25 coins (Akers) to a high of 30 (Breen). Virtually all are in the VF-XF grade range. Most show central striking weakness, and adjustment marks are prevalent.
Today, most numismatists accept the January 14, 1797 delivery of 432 coins as the mintage for this variety. The current estimated surviving population of each of the first three quarter eagle varieties is almost exactly 10% of the first three deliveries. Either five or six examples of BD-1 are known, nearly 10% of the 66 coins delivered on September 21, 1796. Approximately 90 examples of BD-2 are known, almost exactly 10% of the 897 coins delivered on December 8, 1796. Finally, about 40 examples of this BD-3 die variety are known, about 10% of the 432 coins delivered on January 14, 1797.
Consignor Commentary. I have owned several other examples of this variety. In 2005 I had a nice XF/AU example that I liked and was not looking to upgrade. I was at FUN and Stu urged me to look at this coin in lot viewing. I was skeptical, but finally looked at it. For the dimes, I was interested in competing for the best known of any moderately rare variety. I had no such ambition for the quarter eagles--and I could not have funded such an ambition if I had it. Even so, when I saw this coin, I knew it would be a great upgrade for my collection--and that it would be very special to own a Choice Uncirculated gold rarity from the Eliasberg Collection. I understood that the 1796 With Stars is much rarer the 1796 No Stars (BD-2). Because of Stu's guidance, I looked at the coin and it became a high profile addition to the collection.
Provenance. Spedding Sale (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1894); J.H. Clapp; Clapp Estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 80; Long Beach Connoisseur Collection; Bowers and Merena (8/1999), lot 337; Heritage (1/2005), lot 8761.
From The Ed Price Collection.(Registry values: P10) (NGC ID# BFVN, PCGS# 7647)
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