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Finest Graded 1797 Half Eagle with 16 Obverse Stars to be Auctioned by Stack’s Bowers

Based on the lot description by John Pack, Executive Director of Consignments

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Thursday, June 27, 2013 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week

Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ upcoming official auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago is gearing up to be an exciting and memorable event for the entire numismatic community. On Thursday evening, August 15, our eagerly anticipated Rarities Night session will feature a truly impressive array of numismatic items. Among them will be an amazing Mint State 1797 BD-3 Capped Bust Right half eagle. This example of the Rarity-6 variety with small eagle and 16 obverse stars is certified MS-61 by PCGS.

 

According to the catalog description, this coin is a magnificent example of this rarity, is the finest graded by either service, and is the only Mint State coin seen by PCGS. The present coin was once part of the R.L. Miles Collection, sold by us in 1968, a sale name remembered by many for its extraordinary offering of federal gold which was almost complete from gold dollars to Saint Gaudens double eagles.

 

The fields exhibit generous reflectivity on both sides, particularly in the most protected regions of the design. The satiny and lustrous devices are well defined for the issue, with typical softness evident at the centers, but with nearly all the breast feathers visible. A few scattered surface marks are seen, commensurate with the grade, and proved helpful in identifying this as the Miles coin. The eye appeal is excellent for the grade. The surfaces are warm yellow gold with just the faintest trace of deeper gold toning toward the rims. No adjustment marks are seen, and the dentils are sharply defined around each side, the marker of a well made coin. Scattered planchet flakes are seen on both sides, a mint-made condition frequently seen on early gold coins, and should not be confused with handling marks. 

 

The die state on the offered coin is between reverse State b, and State c, as described by John Dannreuther, and later than that seen on the Bass Core Collection coin. Bass owned two examples of this coin. The other coin, sold in our October 1999 Sale, was a later state than the present coin.

 

It is estimated that just 20 to 25 coins of this die marriage exist today and appearances at auction are very few. This coin last sold publicly more than six years ago for $299,000, a strong price at the time, but it is truly a landmark coin.

 

It is perhaps even more significant that we have the pleasure of offering more than one example of this date in the present sale. Many great sales, even those with extensive gold offerings, are missing the 1797 half eagle completely. In our sale we are pleased to have an example of the second rarest variety of the date, along with this finest-graded of the 16-star variety.

 

It is difficult to imagine anything less than complete satisfaction coming from ownership of this piece, as it has everything going for it -- a great pedigree, great aesthetics, finest graded status and a rare date.