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."
Bolender 13, Haseltine 13
OBVERSE 2: Irregular date, per traditional nomenclature, although the "irregular" feature is more notable in the telling than in the seeing. Both 9s are improperly placed, the first is tipped too far to left at top, the last 9 too far to right at top. It has been suggested by Walter H. Breen that a Draped Bust obverse die was made in 1798, but with date incomplete and as 179 only; later to be finished by adding another 9 in 1799. A ray of star 13 touches bust. On the left, stars 3 and 4 are wider apart than are any others. On the right, stars 10-11 are closer together than are any others. Perfect die without cracks.
Obverse die used to strike 1799 BB-151 (first use), BB-152 (intermediate use), and BB-153 (final use).
REVERSE D: Die "dot" (rust) above E in STATES, and die flaws inside upper part of same letter. Die flaws appear between and under two lower stars farthest to right. Star is close to eagle's beak, and barely escapes touching its upper part; ray points to right side of B in PLURIBUS. Leaf points to center of I in AMERICA. A touches fourth feather of right wing. Far right edge of A is over junction of clouds 3 and 4. The upper two berries are closest and the bottom two berries are very large. All seen are weakly struck at their centers.
Reverse die used to strike 1799 BB-151 only.
Die State I: Perfect dies, including reverse die without rust. May not exist.
Die State II: As described above for BB-151. On reverse, rust spot above E in STATES. Die flaws near rightmost stars. The state usually seen.
COLLECTING NOTES: 1799 BB-151 is the rarest variety of this date and is seldom encountered in the marketplace. I estimate that only 40 to 75 are extant. The grades are spread over a wide range, rather than being clustered at, say, VF.
In 1881, Haseltine rated this with his pet phrase, "excessively rare."
Boyd Specimen. AU-55. F.C.C. Boyd Collection (tentative attribution), "World's Greatest Collection," 1945:76. Lester Merkin, AJ. Ostheimer, 3rd Collection, 1968:284. "Practically Unc. Indefinitely struck up in centers, elsewhere very sharp. Mint frost with iridescent cool tone; light adjustment marks on reverse, trivial handling marks." This may be the same as:1975 ANA Convention Sale (Superior):945 EF-40, "probably ex W.G.C., Austin, Ostheimer." 1975ANA had two others, VF-25 (ex Rev. Edward W.W. Lewis, K.P. Austin, Ostheimer), and F-15 cx AJ. Ostheimer, 3rd.
Auction '87 Specimen. AU-50. Stack's, 1987:779. "AU and choice. Perfectly centered and struck. Mint lustre beneath pink and iridescent toning."
Heritage Specimen. AU-50. Heritage, ANA Convention Sale, 1988:955. "Steel violet surfaces displaying scattered patches of brown and gray."
Smith Specimen. EF-45. Harlan P. Smith. Schuyler Collection. M.H. Bolender Collection, 1952:114. "Nearly Unc.,just slight friction on highest portions of hair and eagle. Finely toned, considerable mint lustre.” Dr. Charles Ruby Collection. Superior Galleries, Gilhousen Collection, 1973:1258. "Die flaws at E of STATES. AU or better, much mint lustre and only minor handling marks (three on rims, not very noticeable). Touches of cabinet friction consistent with a grade above EF.” Superior Galleries, Neggen Sale, 1976:659. Superior Galleries, February, 1981:654. "EF-45 or better. Surfaces of AU or better, much mint lustre and only minor handling marks (three on rims, not very noticeable). Touches of cabinet friction consistent with a grade above EF."