We are pleased to offer this exceedingly rare FINEST KNOWN piece. It is NOT CAC.

The Pogue catalog description really was spot on for this coin. Here is the write up:


The Finest Known 1797 13 Stars Dime

Cleneay (1890) – Atwater (1946) – Lovejoy (1990) – Price (2008)

1797 Draped Bust Dime. 13 Stars. John Reich-2. Rarity-4. Mint State-64 (PCGS).

“One of the most desirable early American silver coins in existence… one for the perfectionists.” — Lester Merkin

“The most famous and finest known specimen by far,” in the words of our consignor D. Brent Pogue, a consummate scholar of early coinage. This is an even more beautiful piece than its grade promises, with ancient color and splendid originality. The overall mottled deep gray is enlivened with rose, dark sea green, and amber gold. The luster is strong and frosty. The centers suffer some striking softness, with a low spot at the absolute central obverse and a lack of fine definition on the eagle’s chest and head. The borders and nearly all stars are bold. Lengthy examination finds only a light mark across the first T in STATES.

In 1966, Lester Merkin described this piece better than anyone before or since: “Frosty gem Uncirculated, needle sharp strike everywhere except on eagle’s breast and a small area of curls below ear, and even there exceptionally bold; strongest impression we have ever seen or heard of for this always weak type. Patches of irregular brown toning here and there. Pristine and without any trace of cleaning or visible impairment. By far the finest known and unequaled; approached only by the Holmes-Gardner piece, which went well into four figures despite a much lower estimate and an obv. rim nick. Fifty times as rare as a 1796; one of the most desirable early American silver coins in existence… This is one for the perfectionists.”

The young Chapman brothers, just eight years after their 1882 career-enhancing splash with the famed Bushnell Collection, were more staid in their description: “Beautiful, sharp impression; though the eagle’s breast not quite sharp. Mint lustre. Excessively rare. Plate VII. The finest known, we believe.” B. Max Mehl, never staid, was more enthusiastic in the 1946 Atwater sale, noting this issue was “very rare in any condition, but I consider it excessively rare in this remarkable state of preservation.” He also noted, “this coin only changed hands twice in more than fifty years,” meaning that Atwater did not purchase it directly from the 1890 Cleneay sale. Ed Price, a former owner and scholar of the early dime series, believed the other party may have been DeWitt Smith or H.O. Granberg. Smith is unlikely, as his entire collection was sold en bloc to Virgil Brand. Granberg is possible, though we don’t know what evidence exists to confirm it.

By a slight margin, this is considered the scarcer of the two varieties of 1797 dimes. The JR-1 variety marked the end of the policy to add a star to the obverse for every state in the Union, as the addition of Tennessee in 1796 had made the obverses of the silver and gold coins appear entirely too crowded. This variety is the first of the new design, featuring 13 stars, an aspect that would remain constant for over a century. Though PCGS CoinFacts suggests that five Mint State coins exist, they’ve certified just three above MS-60. The finest PCGS certified example to sell in the last decade was an MS-61 in American Numismatic Rarities’ July 2005 sale. Though the PCGS Population data show two certifications at MS-64, we expect that this piece was certified as an MS-64 at PCGS between its NGC MS-64 and NGC MS-65 certifications, an event that was still on the Population Report when PCGS recertified it recently. PCGS CoinFacts places this atop their Condition Census; we concur and see no likely competitors. Ed Price, the ultimate scholar of this series, said it best: “this is undoubtedly the finest existing 1797 JR-2 dime, by a wide margin.”

PCGS# 38749.

PCGS Population: 2, none finer. (13 Stars, JR-2).

Publications: Plated in Early United States Dimes 1796-1837 (“The JR book”) by David J. Davis, Russell J. Logan, Allen F. Lovejoy, John W. McCloskey, and William L. Subjack, 1984

Provenance: Thomas Cleneay Collection, before 1887; S. Hudson and Henry Chapman’s sale of the Thomas Cleneay Collection, December 1890, lot 1470; unknown intermediary to William Cutler Atwater Collection; B. Max Mehl’s sale of the William Cutler Atwater Collection, June 1946, lot 888; Lester Merkin’s sale of April 1966, lot 89 (at $7,250); Stack’s sale of the Charles Kahn Collection, October 1980, lot 564; Allen F. Lovejoy Collection; Stack’s sale of the Allen F. Lovejoy Collection of United States Dimes, October 1990, lot 9 (as NGC MS-64 at $26,000); RARCOA and David W. Akers, Inc.’s Chicago Sale, August 1991, lot 229 (as NGC MS-64); Waldo Bolen Collection; RARCOA and David W. Akers, Inc.’s session of Numisma ‘95, November 1995, lot 2005 (as NGC MS-64); Larry Whitlow to Ed Price, by sale; Heritage’s sale of the Ed Price Collection, July 2008, lot 1416.

In heavily bidding, this coin sold for $176,250.00 to the current owner.

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