The former Jimmy Hayes-John Whitney Walter 1796 Bust dime graded MS67 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker was the highest selling coin from Heritage's Eugene H. Gardner Collection of US Coins Signature Auction held June 23rd in New York.
This first-year 1796 JR-1 dime is the sole finest certified of this variety with the fields on this unparalleled first-year, first strike coin fully prooflike on both sides. The final sale price, with Buyers Premium came to $881,250.00.
The 637 lots in the sale had a 100% sell-through rate with total sales ( including BP) of $19,627,872.10. There were 160 floor bidders, 591 Internet bidders and 570 Heritage Live Bidders
Below is the full catelog description of this coin, Lot 30229 in Heritage Signature Sale 1213 .........
1796 10C MS67 PCGS. CAC. JR-1, R.3. Ex: Hayes. This 1796 JR-1 dime certified MS67 PCGS is the sole finest certified of this variety. The fields on this unparalleled first-year, first strike coin are fully prooflike throughout both sides.
Not only does the coin show clear and special care being taken in its preparation, striking, and preservation, it is also the earliest die state known, by far, for the 1796 JR-1 dimes.
The excellent PCGS TrueView shows the immaculate preservation and stunning eye appeal. Pale mint-green and light aqua shades complement pastel pink and amber hues. The fields are highly reflective and mirrored throughout, with the devices covered with thick mint frost and grayish-pink patina that creates a pronounced cameo effect against reflective fields. The strike is uncommonly -- preternaturally -- bold, showing full detail in the eagle's breast feathers. This coin shows every indication of being a specimen or presentation strike. There is no doubt in the minds of the senior cataloging staff at Heritage on that issue, even though it is not acknowledged as such by PCGS.
Variety: JR-1, R.3. Die State: Early. Earliest. Every other known example of this die marriage shows a pronounced die cud joining star 1 on the obverse with several dentils at the rim. That die cud is absent here. Although the 1999 Stack's cataloger (see below) called it a "ghost outline," to our eyes it is simply absent. Could this have been the very first example struck? It goes without saying that neither do any traces of later-state die cracks appear on either side.
Population Data (5/14): Sole finest certified of the JR-1 variety at PCGS. PCGS has certified one MS68 of the JR-6 variety. NGC shows one MS67 of the JR-4 variety.
Heritage Commentary: The Gene Gardner Collection is a remarkable pleasure for the Heritage cataloging team to work on, a phenomenal assemblage literally rife with finest known coins. Even a so-called "common" date assumes a well-earned aura of importance when it is the finest known, or tied for finest known, or well within the Condition Census -- as so many of the Gardner treasures are.
But in the present 1796 dime certified MS67 by PCGS, with the added CAC green approval sticker, we have a coin of such importance that it is the single finest known of its variety. Although there is one higher-graded example of the JR-6 "hyphenated date" variety known, that coin shows the bold die breaks that give the JR-6 its nickname. This JR-1, struck with extraordinary, special care from dies in their earliest known state, bears all indications of being an important presentation strike. The strike is so bold that there is a partial wire rim visible on each side.
The year 1796 was the first in which the important dime (or ten cents) silver denomination was struck. The U.S. Mint began regular production in its new Philadelphia facility with copper cents and half cents in 1793. The year 1794 saw the first strikes of silver half dimes, half dollars, and silver dollars. The first gold coins would follow in 1795, in the form of the five dollar or half eagle pieces, and 1796 would finally see a full suite of every authorized denomination struck at the U.S. Mint for the first time, an occurrence that would not be seen again until 1849.
The confluence of a full complement of U.S. coinage denominations for the year 1796 -- and yet, a year full of absolute and, even more so, conditional rarities -- has exerted a powerful attraction for numismatists over the decades, few more so than John Whitney Walter, also known as "Mr. 1796" or simply John Whitney. The Stack's auction of his coins in 1999 brought together the most remarkable grouping of 1796-dated coins in one place that the American numismatic market has ever seen. The 96 lots in that auction-- beginning with lot 1700 and ending with lot 1796 -- included 92 1796-dated federal U.S. Mint issues and varieties, along with four 1796-dated Castorland and Myddelton tokens.
The present 1796 dime was one of the keystone coins in that collection. It is, without exaggeration, simply a landmark coin, one that will continue to bestow immense importance on any cabinet in which it resides.
This coin not only brings incredible technical and aesthetic appeal, it also comes with an important pedigree to John Whitney Walter and to Congressman Jimmy Hayes before him -- and now to Gene Gardner. Given the importance of the past Hayes-Whitney pedigree, we have chosen to quote the excellent Stack's lot description of this coin verbatim:
"An incomparable specimen strike in the earliest obverse state ever seen. Superb pale blue and light green toning over silvery surfaces. Both sides show full, mirror flash in all areas. On the obverse, Liberty's hair is sharp and the individual strands are separate, with just a touch of softness in the curls over her ear. The stars are sharply struck up. The strike was so strong that it actually formed a partial rim on the obverse. The reverse shows full breast feathers on the eagle and only its left leg feathers are soft. There are partial denticles on the reverse. Exceptionally early strike, the obverse shows only ghost outlines of the die cud between the date and first star that is seen on every other specimen known of JR-1. This specimen is truly a highlight of the Whitney Collection.
"1796 was the first year of issue of the Dime denomination. Perhaps that was the reason why a small handful of 1796 Dimes was struck with a sharper blow on planchets that had been cut from polished strip. There could be another reason why a handful pf presentation specimen strike 1796 coins were made in the early days of the Mint when a new president was elected or inaugurated. If one compares the years for which specimen strikes are known with the years in which a new president was elected or inaugurated, one finds that three-quarters of the surviving specimen strikes are dated in such election or inaugural years. This is too high a percentage to be accounted for by mere chance. Unfortunately, the Mint left no records behind that state that presentation coins were made for incoming presidents, vice-presidents, and their staffs. However, the numismatic evidence is clear that at least some of the early (1796-1821) specimen strikes known must have been made for that very purpose. In the present case, 1796 was the year that John Adams was elected President and Thomas Jefferson Vice President.
"Whatever the real reason may have been, the fact remains that there exists a handful of early U.S. coins that are so far superior to anything else that they must have been made for some purpose other than ordinary circulation. We do not know exactly what that purpose may have been because the Mint has left us no documents that mention why it struck such Specimen coins. All we can be absolutely sure of is that these are superior, special coins made for a special reason. They are the absolute pinnacle of the late 18th century coiner's craft."
Provenance: Empire sale (11/1957), lot 728; Jimmy Hayes Collection (Stack's, 10/1985), lot 16; John Whitney Walter "Mr. 1796" Collection (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1763, ; the present consignor.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 236B, PCGS# 4461)