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."
"Amateur Diecutter's Reverse" Arc star pattern
OBVERSE 15: Compact date, 8 close to bust, beinga little nearer than 1 is to curl. Upper left star close to L and lowest right star very close to bust. On the left, stars 1 and 2, and 2 and 3, are more widely spaced than are the other stars. On the right, stars 10-11 and 11-12 are more widely spaced than are the other stars. Curl close to date is complete but is formed very delicately.
Obverse die used to strike 1798 BB-121 only.
REVERSE R: "Amateur Diecutter's Reverse." Star distant from eagle's beak. Arc star pattern, but amateurishly executed, with the first star in the Second row out of place and too high. This is the only 1798 reverse with this "sloppy" die work: Star distant from beak. Star ray points to top of I in PLURIBUS. Five small berries, the second and third from top are closest together. Bottom end of olive branch is long and needle-like. Leaf points to lower right point of R in AMERICA. Either 12 or 13 arrows are present; two are very weak and appear to hold another stick between them; the two rightmost arrow shafts each have two heads (and thus count as four arrows), the third arrow shaft from the right is ghostlike (the three rightmost shafts are quite similar to those on the reverse used to coin BB-96, BB-101 and certain other reverses of the era).
Reverse die used to strike 1798 BB-121 only.
Die State I: Die state as described above; perfect dies.
Die State II: Perfect dies, except for tiny vertical crack on reverse from O in OF to rim. Raised die rust marks between lowest curl and border (visible on higher grade pieces). Most BB-121 dollars are of this die state.
Die State III: Bolender-9a. Now with die cracks as follows: A crack on obverse from border up through 17 to bust. Another crack from border through two lower rays of second star. Other cracks from third to sixth stars. Reverse shows light crack through STATES OF AM. Another crack from border down through M to ribbon. Some specimens have the vertical elements of letters in LIBERTY bifurcated, or (on the reverse) even the horizontal members of the letters such as E and D in UNITED missing due to bifurcation, but this idiosyncrasy does not determine a separate die state.
Die State IV: Die cracks more advanced than preceding. Dies show rust. Cf. Spies "Bolender-9b" and possibly the Gilhousen VF coin.
COLLECTING NOTES: 1798 BB-121 has an estimated population of 300 to 500 pieces, enough that the specialist can find one with some searching, and probably will have to pay no more than a "type" price. Most specimens of BB-121 are seen in lower grade levels. The variety becomes a rarity in AU grade and may be unknown in full Mint State, if today's strict grading interpretations are used.
DeCoppet Specimen. AU-55. James Kelly, Andre DeCoppet Collection, 1955. "Practically Uncirculated and well struck, beautifully toned."
Mason-Dixon Specimen. AU-50. . Mason-Dixon Sale, May 1957. Alfred J. Ostheimer, 3rd Collection, Lester Merkin, 1968:251. "AU, rather weakly struck up on face and very center on either side, as usual, but more curl details than on Bolender's plate coin. Edge irregularity under point of bust. Deeply toned, iridescent and frosty."
Spring Quartette Sale Specimen. AU-50. Bowers and Merena, Spring Quartette Sale, 1992:2578. "Struck lightly off center on both sides, with AMERICA to edge of coin on reverse. A rich medium gray specimen with splashes of gold and pale blue toning highlights on both surfaces. Some faint, old planchet adjustment marks are noted on the obverse at Liberty's portrait."
Bauer Specimen. EF-45. Lester Merkin, Bauer Collection, 1968:389. "All breaks listed by Bolender, additional break through O. EF+. Deeply toned, nearly full mint lustre, minor adjustment marks."
Brilliant and Sieck Collections Specimen. EF-45. Bowers and Merena, Brilliant and Sieck Collections, 1992:1267. "Once dipped long ago, now beginning to retone. Very sharp and appealing, with full detail in Liberty's hair strands, the folds of her bodice, the eagle's breast and tail feathers. Typically soft on the lower left feathers of the eagle's right wing."
Everson and Faught Collections Specimen. EF-45. Bowers and Merena, Everson and Faught Collections, 1988:216. "Pale iridescent rose toning. Attractive detailing may be seen on the obverse, with the majority of Liberty's hair strands separate and bold. The majority of the eagle's breast feathers may also be seen. A few minor edge bumps."
Cardinal Collection - Dr. Hesselgesser Collection - Goldbergs 5/2011:893, $17,825 - Heritage 10/2014:4810, $15,275
Wayne Miller Collection
Cardinal Collection - Dr. Hesselgesser Collection - Goldbergs 9/5/2011:5065, $21,850
Dr. Hesselgesser Collection - Goldbergs 9/5/2011:5066, $4,370