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1796 B-5, BB-65, MS

Image Information

Type Coin
Title 1796 B-5, BB-65, MS
Date 1796
Grade MS63
Service NGC
Service Catalog # 40002
Denomination S$1

1796 $1 Draped Bust Dollar, Large Date, Small Letters, B-5, BB-65, R.2, MS63 NGC. Bowers Die State II. The Mint's second director, Henry William de Saussure, played an important role in the redesign of the nation's early coinage despite his short (only a few months) tenure at the Mint. Under de Saussure's direction, Robert Scot redesigned the half eagle and eagle in Greco-Roman fashion with a draped bust of Liberty. Similar influences inspired the Draped Bust motif that was introduced in late 1795 for the silver dollar, but with a less matronly portrait. The design was soon adapted for the smaller denominations although with minor modifications. In contrast to the free-flowing tresses of the Flowing Hair motif, Scot's Draped Bust design was an altogether more formal treatment of Liberty. A fillet, or ribbon, gathered the hair in sophisticated fashion, and intricate drapery folds curved shoulder-to-bust. The Small Eagle reverse was redesigned, but not as successfully, and it was soon replaced by the Heraldic Eagle - a more forceful design - adapted from the Great Seal of the United States. Among the 1796 Small Eagle dollars, the BB-65 (Bolender-5) variety is the sole die marriage with a Large Date in the style of 1797, paired with a Small Letters reverse. The repunching of the 6 in the date is clearly seen at the ball and the adjacent inner curve, as well as at the inside top loop. On this coin, the diagnostic die lump and bulge at I in AMERICA is in an early stage, not yet touching the C. Colorful shades of blue, green, and plum cede to tan-gold and ivory hues at the centers. The strike is uniformly sharp, with minor incompleteness at stars 2 and 3, and at the eagle's leg and breast. Seemingly all of the high-grade examples share these few areas of slight weakness. Full mint luster glows beneath the toning. Magnification reveals a few light lines and tiny contacts, but none that detract from the excellent eye appeal. This is clearly the finest 1796 BB-65 Heritage has had the privilege to offer. Only one example of the variety is numerically finer - the former Pogue coin, which traces back to the Thomas Cleneay Collection. The present coin is perhaps a bit sharper than that example, with the eagle's head and neck plumage more fully defined. While unlisted in the current edition of the Bowers Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, this exact coin topped the list of Notable Specimens in the 1993 edition of the Encyclopedia. NGC reports one other MS63 example, with none finer (8/17). Ex: "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp and Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $50.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.

Heritage Newman IX, November 2017, lot 15095, realized $120000. Images and description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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