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 11, Haseltine 11
OBVERSE 4: See description under 1799 BB-156; die corrected as described under BB-163. Perfect, without cracks. Obverse die used to strike 1799 BB-156 (with dash marks), BB-157, BB-161 (now relapped), BB-162, BB-163, and BB-164.
REVERSE I: No berries. U in UNITED defective at upper left part, which is cut off, due to the employment of a: defective punch. Point of star touches point of lower part of eagle's beak; ray points to left serif at left side of U in PLURIBUS. Star under cloud 1 is noticeably smaller than any other. A in AMERICA rests on 4th feather. Leaf point is under left side of upright of I. Upper right star has only one point touching cloud 8 (whereas two points of the same star touch the cloud on the reverse of BB-157). Far right edge of A is over junction of clouds 3 and 4. No berries on branch (one tiny remnant of a stem can be seen), as the die was reground earlier (see description under 1799 BB-158). This is the terminal state of this die, after having mated with four obverses including this one.
Reverse first used to strike 1799 BB-158, during which time it had its first relapping (berries weak), next coining BB-159, then BB-158 again, then, second relapping (removing berries), BB-160 and, finally, BB-161.
Die State I: Obverse die without cracks. Reverse die without cracks. May not exist with unbroken reverse die.
Die State II: Bolender-11a. Large crack from left border goes past right side of D of UNITED to eagle's wing; a spur of the crack goes to the edge of the D and then downward to ribbon. Scarcer die state than the following.
Die State III: Cracks enlarge, and now crack from border goes through wing, star, eagle's head, and continues upward behind head. Crack from D to ribbon now continues downward along edge of eagle's wing to shield (and is remarkably similar to a crack on 1799/8 BB-143). New crack goes from arrow feathers upward through UNITE to border. This die state, or a slightly less advanced version of it, is the state most often seen for BB-161.
COLLECTING NOTES: The present population of 1799 BB-161 is believed to be about 600 to 1,100. Most of these are of Die State II, according to auction offerings, but probably most were what I call Die State III. While BB-161 is obtainable easily enough in lower grades, in AU the issue is scarce, and in true Mint State it is a notable rarity. Nearly all of the auction appearances for Mint State coins mentioned above occurred well before the revision in grading interpretations that occurred in numismatics beginning in 1986.
BB-161 has no berries in the branch on the reverse, a fact not generally known, as Milferd H. Bolender noted that it has "one tiny berry." Granted, it may have a trace of an erstwhile berry, but anything approaching a full berry, no. The No Berry variety has been listed in the Guide Book for many years, and, as such, it has drawn a circle of collectors desiring it (especially true of the better known BB-160, which Bolender specifically noted as being berryless, but "from same die as Bolender-11," with no further explanation given).
Inasmuch as the without-berries feature on BB-161 and BB-160 was caused by relapping the die, to my mind the variety is not especially significant for that feature. Had the berries been omitted in error by the die sinker, that would constitute a variety worth striving for.
Boyd Specimen. MS-63. Numismatic Gallery, World's Greatest Collection, F.C.C. Boyd, 1945:73. "Similar to H-11 but reverse has die break from edge to wing and touching D in UNITED. Unc. gem." . Numismatic Gallery, ANA Convention Sale, 1949: 186. Stack's, Harold Bareford Collection, 1981:416. "Die break touching D of UNITED. Brilliant Unc., frosty mint bloom, with just the barest touch of friction on the high points. Lovely delicate golden toning with a blush of russet."
Davis Specimen. MS-60. Stack's, Davis-Graves Games Davis) Collection, 1954:1302. "Sharp, well-centered lustrous specimen, showing 'waves' above date where clouds from reverse die are incused. A shade from Unc." Lester Merkin, AJ. Ostheimer, 3rd Collection, 1968:282. "Heavy breaks much more advanced than described for Bolender-lla. Faintly iridescent pale gray toned Choice Unc., excellent sharp strike; one or two bagmarks short of gem level."
Forrest Specimen. MS-60. Stack's, S.S. Forrest, Jr. Collection, 1972:983. "Sharply struck and perfectly centered. Brilliant Unc., prooflike. Slight weakness at center stars in reverse field hardly worth mentioning. Superb light gray toning."
Hollinbeck-Kagin Specimen. MS-60. Hollinbeck-Kagin Sale, June 1970:627. "Prooflike obverse, Unc. reverse, glittering golden patina."
DeCoppet Specimen. AU-55. James Kelly, Andre DeCoppet Collection, 1955. "Practically Unc., some mint lustre.