1804 Draped Bust Dime. 14 Star. John Reich-2. Rarity-5. About Uncirculated-58 (PCGS).
The rarer of the two varieties of this equally rare date, long acclaimed as "unknown in Mint State," though the quality of this specimen and a recently discovered example challenge that assertion.
The obverse shows strong luster and intact cartwheel, while the reverse is frosty and more subtly lustrous. Overall gold surfaces exhibit deep amber and traces of violet and blue clinging to the obverse rims. The reverse transitions from silver gray in the northwest quadrant to deep amber and gold in the southwest. The left periphery of both sides is a bit softly struck-as always seen on this die marriage-suggesting axial misalignment of the dies, but the centers are well detailed. Easily overlooking some trivial hairlines and a single thin scratch in the lower right obverse field inside of star 12, the surfaces are free of marks and choice. The obverse die was a veteran of the 1804 JR-1 dime marriage, the reverse was previously muled to a quarter eagle obverse. This would be the last appearance of each of these two dies, and the obverse likely survived only a short interval beyond this coin. A substantial bisecting die crack emerges from the rim above star 13, delicately at first, crosses Liberty's chin and gains prominence at her cheek, and then travels through her hair to the left base of B in LIBERTY. Another die crack runs through the upright of T and meets the first at Liberty's temple, while another originates at the rim outside of star 10 and continues toward her nose. An additional crack runs into Liberty's cleavage. While this piece, in our estimate, is accurately graded, the visual appeal is superb and its desirability can't be topped.
Cataloged by S. Hudson Chapman in the important 1907 sale of the David S. Wilson Collection as "Extremely fine. Mint luster. Shows the border of the beads inside of rim around one-half obverse, which is more than usual. This border is the same as on the dollar. One of the finest specimens known. Extremely rare. Plate VIII." How this piece came to reside in the Eliasberg Collection is a mystery. Page 53 of the Clapp family notebook, depicted in the 1996 Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection catalog, lists the early dimes in the collection of J.M Clapp. While one 1804 appears (the 13 Star Reverse sold as lot 1052 in the 1996 Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. sale), this coin does not. The 1954 Anderson-Dupont sale mentions under lot 1528, a low grade specimen of this variety, "none in the Eliasberg collection," so this coin must have been acquired after that date.
In cataloging this piece for the May 2015 sale of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part I, John Kraljevich reflects that "[I] may have been the first numismatist outside of the Eliasberg family to have seen this coin in decades. Tasked with cataloging the family's world gold coins, I came to know Richard Eliasberg well and visited regularly. As additional small groups of world coins were discovered in the family holdings, usually relatively minor pieces, I would go to Baltimore to view them and help with appraisals. On one visit, Mr. Eliasberg showed me this coin, asking if it was anything special. I offered that it was the best 1804 dime I'd ever seen and probably one of the best extant."
After it reappeared and sold at auction in 2007, this hunch was confirmed: it was the finest 1804 dime known. Dime expert Ed Price acquired it soon after and he wrote: "This is easily the finest 1804 dime of either variety that I have seen or heard of. I was a little surprised that this coin did not grade as Uncirculated. In any case, it is clearly finer than any others I am aware of." The authors of the JR book called this variety a "major rarity in high grade; unknown in Mint State." The R.L. Miles coin (Stack's, 1969) was the best they recorded, graded EF-45.
Since the 2008 Ed Price sale, a newly discovered specimen has been graded MS-63 by NGC, making it the sole Mint State coin graded by either service. This Eliasberg piece is the finest graded by PCGS by five points and is probably the second finest known.
PCGS# 38767. NGC ID: 236P.
PCGS Population: 1, none finer. (14 Star Reverse, JR-2)
Ex David S. Wilson Collection, before 1906; From S. Hudson Chapman's sale of the David S. Wilson Collection, March 1907, lot 694; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, before 1976; Richard A. Eliasberg, by descent; Heritage's sale of January 2007, lot 861; Ed Price Collection; Heritage's sale of the Ed Price Collection, July 2008, lot 1443; our (Stack's Bowers)/Sotheby's sale of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part I, May 2015, lot 1046.