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

1798 $1 B-18 BB-103 (Regular Strike)

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40.00 millimeters
Robert Scot
27.00 grams
Metal Content:
90% Silver, 10% Copper
Auction Record:
$9,400 • PCGS NG0 • 11-8-2013 • Stack's/Bowers
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 18, Haseltine 18

OBVERSE 6: See description under BB-102. Obverse die used to strike 1798 BB-102, BB-103, and BB-107.

REVERSE G: Branch with five medium sized berries, the two top ones closest together. Leaf point below lower left corner of I in AMERICA. Star distant from eagle's beak. Arc star pattern. 13 arrows.

In 1950, Bolender wrote this: "Die break from milling down through right part of E in STATES to clouds. This break has been seen on all specimens examined. Die breaks through last S in STATES and top of OF. Light die crack from top of N to base of D in UNITED."

However, it seems that Haseltine (see below) knew of at least two coins with perfect reverse (and knew of none with die cracks). Some specimens of BB-103 were struck from this die in perfect condition, then the reverse die was combined with another obverse to create BB-104, some specimens were struck, then a crack developed through the E, during which state most specimens of BB-104 were made. Then the crack advanced to the shield, some specimens were struck, then the reverse was recombined with the first obverse die to create additional specimens of BB-103, the reverse die by now having sustained additional cracks.

Reverse die used to strike 1798 BB-103 (early and late, states) and BB-104 (intermediate states).


Die State I: Perfect reverse die. Unknown to Bolender. Spies: 80 is this state. This die state is also known on 1798 BB-104. Rare die state for BB-103.

Die State II: Reverse die cracked through E of STATES. Known on 1798 BB-104. May not exist on 1798 BB-103.

Die State III: As II, but die crack now extending to shield. Known on 1798 BB-104. May not exist tin 1798 BB-103.

Die State IV: Reverse with die crack from border down through right part of E in STATES to clouds. This crack has been seen on an specimens examined by Bolender. Die cracks through last S in STATES and top of OF. Light die crack from top of N to base of D in UNITED. The usual die state for BB-103.

COLLECTING NOTES: The 1798 BB-103 dollar is an extreme rarity and shares honors with BB-117 as one. of the two most elusive die combinations of the year. Apparently, only five to 10 are known, with the population most likely being toward the low end of that range. BB-103 has the lowest average auction grade of any 1798 dollar (a distinction based upon an admittedly small population).

This high rarity seems anomalous, when one considers that the progressively failing reverse die used to coin 1798 BB-103 went on to strike many examples of 1798 BB-104, and the still usable obverse later was employed to strike a large number of 1798 BB-107 dollars. If the rarity observations are accurate (and not just due to the lack of attribution of sufficient early dollars), the die marriage used to create 1798 BB-103 must have been interrupted on a whim. (Information in this paragraph suggested by Harry E. Salyards, M.D., letter to the author, January 19, 1993.)

In writing of this variety, Bolender said the following (italics ours) in reference to the die crack on the reverse: "This break has been seen on all specimens examined." Usually, Bolender erred on the side of rarity; many specimens later proved to be not as rare as he said. The term all seems to indicate that he saw more than one with a reverse die crack. He designates BB-103 as Rarity-8 (presumably, on the Sheldon Scale, but Bolender never said what his rarity ratings meant); if so, he felt that two or three specimens of BB-103 existed with the die crack.

J.W. Haseltine designated H-18 (now, BB-103) as "excessively rare" in his pioneering 1881 monograph on early silver dollars. Apparently, he saw multiple specimens, none of which had the reverse die crack (for he mentions under BB-104 that in this later use, the reverse die was broken through the letter E in STATES). Had he seen just one, he probably would have said so (as in the case of 1795 H-13, for example, of which he noted this: "Probably unique, as I have never seen or heard of another of this variety"). Based on this, it would seem that Haseltine had seen multiple specimens of 1798 H-18 (BB-103) without the crack.


Boyd Specimen. VF-20 .Numismatic Gallery, World's Greatest Collection, F.C.C. Boyd, 1945:43. "VF with slight edge dent."
Haines Specimen. VG-8. S. H, and H. Chapman, Ferguson Haines Collection, 1888:233. "VG. Shows file marks in planchet." Possibly one of the above.

Spies Specimen. VG-8. Stack's, W. Earl Spies Collection, 1974:82. "Reverse struck with unknown perfect dies. VG, with central portion very weak." Superior Galleries, H.W. 'Blevins Collection, 1988:3671. "VG-8. Even, natural gunmetal-gray coloring. The obverse shows some weakness of strike in the center; the reverse is extremely weak at the center; this is probably the result of die failure, and is probably the reason why this variety is so rare. The surfaces are extremely clean with no flaws that are not Mint-made; there are some adjustment marks at the center of the reverse."

Willasch Specimen. G-4 net. Superior Galleries, H. Roland Willasch Collection, 1990:494. "VG-10. Heavy scratches in the left field and another on Liberty’s hair which have been buffed down. Some adjustment marks are visible in the center of the obverse. Cleaned and starting to tone to a medium gray. Early die state without the crack at the E of STATES on the reverse, unknown to Bolender.