Q. David Bowers: The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993). Note: the Notable Specimens list should be used with caution - it has been updated in my 2013 edition of "The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars 1794-1804."
"Blundered Stars Reverse."
Line star pattern (placed too high).
OBVERSE 17: Close date, only 9.5 mm. across at widest part. "Whisker" on chin. Die dot in field under chin, about one-third of the distance between neck and star 12. 1 very close to curl. Last star near bust, upper right star distant from Y, upper left star still farther from L, and first star farthest from curl.
Obverse die used to strike 1798 BB-123 only.
REVERSE T: "Blundered Stars Reverse" with blundered star placement; some stars overlap clouds. Perhaps, the engraver had too much rum (or "ayle," per National Archives records) while cutting this die! Two uppermost stars in center partly in clouds. Cloud 4 has two rays of a star superimposed on it at lower left; clouds 5 and 6, which overlap, are with the top ray of a star touching cloud 5, the ray to the left of it barely touching the cloud, and the ray to the right slightly overlapping cloud 6. A star touches point of upper part of eagle's beak; star ray points to right side of B in PLURIBUS. Line star pattern. Die crack from stem down to milling. Small die flaws in E of STATES, between E and-S, and under S. Die crack from cloud under last S of STATES through top of 0 and down to base of F.
Reverse die used to strike 1798 BB-123 (earliest state), BB-124 (intermediate state, now relapped); and 1799 BB-152 (latest state).
Die State I: Bolender-25a. No cracks on obverse. On the reverse, the crack from stern end has not yet developed. Die flaws as three raised lumps extending down to the right from rays of star beneath cloud 7. Quite scarce; about 10% or so of extant BB-123 dollars are of this die state.
Die State II: Obverse still without cracks. On reverse, a tiny crack has just deve1opedon the right side of the stem to the border, up the branch slightly from the stem end, Die cracks at star beneath cloud 7 lengthen. Only one seen.
Die State III: Obverse develops cracks completely around the border through or adjacent to stars, letters, and date. Additional crack from 1 in date to rim. Whisper of additional die crack to right of star 7. On the reverse, the die crack on the stem forms a blob at the stem end. Die cracks at star beneath cloud 7 are still larger, appear as two raised streaks, and extend to near the star beneath cloud 8. This is the usually seen die state.
Die State IV: Bolendcr-25b. Obverse cracks intensify. Large crack from border through two rays of star 7 to field, where another crack develops. Reverse with stem crack heavier to border. Scarcer than Die State III.
COLLECTING NOTES: I believe that 300 to 500 examples are known of 1798 BB-123, making it in the middle range of availability. Nearly all are in lower grades through EF. AU coins are very rare.
Robertson Specimen. MS-60. J. Douglas Robertson Collection, San Diego Sale, Mid-American, 1989:716. "Struck very slightly out of collar resulting in little or no denticulation at the lower obverse and the corresponding reverse. A marvelous coin with more lustre than on any example of this date that we have seen in years. Lustre especially strong on the obverse and is enhanced by lovely natural toning at the borders from storage in an old album. Both sicks are sharp."
Romano Specimen. AU-55. Stack's, Corrado Romano Collection, 1987: 753. "Choice AU, deep blue and lighter lavender with a broad splash of gold on the reverse; nice frosted surfaces, a curly lint mark around the arrowheads as made." Romano was for many years the proprietor of the Worthy Coin Company, Boston.
Essex Institute Specimen. AU-50. Stack's, 1975:991. "AU, frosty mint lustre. Delicate russet toning." First National Bank of Denver Specimen. AU-50. Bowers and Merena Galleries, First National Bank of Denver Collection, 1987:419; "Sharply struck, light rubbing, well concealed amid shades of gray and pale gold."
Higgins Specimen. AD-50. Bowers and Merena Galleries, Lloyd M. Higgins, M.D. Collection, 1988:2308. "Sharply struck. Light rubbing, well concealed amid shades of gray and pale gold."
1981 ANA Convention Sale Specimen. EF-45. Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, 1981 ANA Convention Sale:732. "Choice EF45, lightly polished long ago, since retoned a gray and iridescent color. Extremely sharp."
Auction '86 Specimen. EF-45. Stack's, Auction '86, 1986:290. "Choice EF,deep golden toning. Somewhat softly struck at end of bust and matching area near OF on reverse."
Brooks Specimen, EF45. Bowers and Merena Galleries, Brooks Collection, 1989:214. "Coppery golden toning with splashes and blushes of lilac and bluish gray coloration. Most of Miss Liberty's hair strands are clearly delineated. The only notable softness on the reverse is by the letter 0 in OF, a feature typical for the variety."
Dr. Hesselgesser Collection - Goldbergs 9/5/2011:5069, $9,487.50
Dr. Hesselgesser Collection - Bowers & Merena 8/2010:1024, $6,612.50
Wayne Miller Collection