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SERIES: Draped Bust Dollars 1795-1803
LEVEL: Minor Variety or Die Variety

1796 $1 B-6 BB-64 Sm Dt Lg Lt (Regular Strike)

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40.00 millimeters
Robert Scot/John Eckstein
27.00 grams
Metal Content:
90% Silver, 10% Copper
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."


OBVERSE 2: See description under 1796 BB-63. Small, wide date.

Obverse die used to strike 1796 BB-63 (earlier use) and BB-64 (later use).

REVERSE C: Large letters. This variety has a reverse, unknown to Bolender, not found on any other dollar of the era. Four berries inside wreath, four berries outside. Lowest outside berry is between the N and I in UNITED. Berry under right foot of A in STATES.
The two specimens known are each in a reverse die state quickly identifiable by a massive vertical die crack from the rim, through the left side of 0 in OF, through palm branch, wing. tip, palm branch again, C, then turning to the left and continuing to border. This crack strongly affects the right side of the reverse. A smaller crack goes from the bow knot, to the right, through left foot of A, bottom of C, to join larger crack. Usually, the area to the left of the crack is weakly struck. Probably, the die failed almost immediately.

Discovered by Walter H. Breen in the summer of 1957.

Reverse die used to strike 1796 BB-64 only.


Die State I: Perfect obverse die. Perfect reverse die. May not exist with perfect obverse die.

Die State II: Obverse die very slightly relapped, Part of interior of lowest curl gone. Perfect reverse die. May not exist.

Die State III: Obverse die as preceding. Reverse With massive crack and smaller crack as described above. The only two specimens known are of this die state. (Of course, it is possible that intermediate states, perhaps numerous, may have existed at one time between Die State II and III.)

COLLECTING NOTES: Two are believed to be known of this variety.

The only coin known to me was in the cabinet of K.P. Austin, of Salisbury, Maryland, leading specialist in the series several decades ago. It then went into the AJ. Ostheimer, 3rd Collection, then to Superior's 1975 ANA Convention sale, where it appeared as Lot 823 and was described as follows:

1796 obverse Bolender-2, but with a semi-unique and unlisted reverse having a long vertical die crack from the denticles at 1:00 passing left edge of 0 in OF, through wreath, wing tip, wreath, C of AMERICA and curving left slightly to a denticle. Was VF before someone scratched the lines across the diameter of the obverse in a wheel spoke fashion; after which someone else tried improving this piece by lightly burnishing the entire obverse. Reverse is untouched and shows the unmistakable weakness on the left three quarters of the coin due to the die failure. Damaged, but still semi-unique to date. [$850]

The coin went to the collection of Jules Reiver, long-time expert and specialist in early American silver coinage. From a value viewpoint, some have considered to the coin to be net VG-8. The condition of the second piece is not known to me. In a conversation, Jules Reiver related the following commentary "transcribed" from-my memory, a few minutes after my telephone conversation with Jules Reiver, December 2, 1992.

I know of just a single specimen of the 1796 B-6 [BB-64], the one I own. This is a very curious coin. Some time ago I held a class on grading coins for some local schoolchildren. Some of them became quite knowledgeable. The B-6 [BB-64] has a huge die break on the back, and on the left side of the break it is very weak and worn-appearing, and on the right side it looks AU and is sharp. I would cover over the sharp part of the coin and ask a student to grade it. One of them said it was Good to Very Good, which was about right. 'I would then cover over that part, and resubmit the coin with the sharper part of the reverse showing, and the same person graded it as AU, which was also right.

We then had a discussion as to why a coin could be Good in one section of the surface and AU in another. The obverse of the coin is scratched up and somewhat defaced. The same student suggested that after this coin was struck, someone at the Mint examined it and saw the effects of the broken die, and said it was unfit to be released into circulation. This Mint employee then scratched it, so it wouldn't be given out, but, somehow, it escaped. That theory sounded good to me.


Austin Specimen. VG-8. K.P. Austin. A.J. Ostheimer, 3rd. Superior's 1975 ANA: Convention sale: 823. Jules Reiver Collection.
Untraced Specimen. Another specimen, untraced, details not known to the author.

Note: The coin listed as Lot 23 of the World's Greatest Collection was incorrectly attributed and is a late die state of BB-65.