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Obverse of 1796 Draped Bust Quarter Dollar     Reverse of 1796 Draped Bust Quarter Dollar


Rarity: Scarce

This was the only use of the obverse die.

The reverse die of this variety was also used on:
1796 Browning 1

The easiest way to tell the two 1796 obverses apart is by comparing the relationship of the E and the R of LIBERTY to the hair curls

Closeup of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 1
1796 Browning 1

Closeup of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 2
Closeup of 1796 Browning 2

The following is reprinted with permission from “The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States 1796-1838” by A.W. Browning, completely updated by Walter Breen, copyright 1992 by Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc.:

Obverse: Date equally spaced, 6 is high and very near bust, but does not touch.  In LIBERTY, T and Y do not touch at the top.  Lower right star is twice as far from drapery as in [Browning 1].
Reverse: The same as [Browning 1].
Obverse die perfect; reverse usually showing the eagle’s head weak.  A few pieces are known with the eagle’s head fairly well defined, but not perfect as in [Browning 1].  This is the most common variety, but since coinage for the year was small both varieties are rare.

Wide even date, 6 almost touching drapery; curl point under curve of B.
Browning-2; Clapp-1; Duphorne-2, Breen-3882, Haseltine-1, Hilt-1.

Die States:
I.  Perfect obverse die.  Not found with eagle’s head bold.
II. Shattered obverse die; cracks from IE to head, three others through ERTY and adjacent stars.  Discovery announced in a Glendening sale, March 1935; illustration is of a plaster cast.

The following deliveries are reported (Bullion Journal A, National Archives):





April 9, 1796



May 27, 1796



June 14, 1796



February 28, 1797



Total =


Hilt claims that all 6,146 were from these B-2 dies and that about 85 survive = 1.32% or 1 per 75.76 minted, of which some 7.0% or six should be Uncirculated (p. 106).  However, Col. E.H.R. Green had a total of 200 Uncirculated 1796s, mostly from these dies, about half more or less prooflike, the remainder not.  Abe Kosoff has personally described seeing quantities of these Col. Green 1796s; he and Andre DeCoppet were involved in their disposal during the 1940s.  There are also about seven prooflike presentation coins (EPC), including J. Stack Collection and others.
The new variety claimed in WGC:3 is unidentified but from the description it appears to be a B-2 with light double striking at date.
Many show planchet cracks at edges – probably incurred during rolling of strip or punching of planchets from strip.

One is known countermarked S. LOOMIS.

One (much worn) is countermarked ADMIT TO WOOD’S MINSTRELS…BDWAY; the street number (444) not visible; this came from Edmund A. Rice, of Cranbury, NJ, and before him probably from Henry Chapman’s stock.  The Browning plate coin cost $25 before 1922 (source unknown), later to BPC, Col. Green.  A specimen in very worn state with X scratched in obverse field was copied by forgers.  Authentication is recommended.

Numerical Condition Census (RWM, Sr. [circa 1992]): 65+PL, 65, 64, 64, 64, 63+ Hoard Coin.

Images courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service

Significant examples:
PCGS MS-67 (illustrated above)
- Knoxville collection

NGC MS-63 (illustrated below).  Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Benson II" sale, February 18-19, 2002, Lot 685, illustrated, where it was described as follows: "1796. Browning-2, Rarity-3. NGC graded MS-63. Here is the poster coin for the Benson collection as it embodies the rich toning seen on virtually all of the coins from this group. Note the especially bright centers and rich, iridescent blue tones at the rims. As to the strike, it is full for this variety, the eagle's head is characteristically weak, as nearly always seen for this variety.
Quarters were first issued in 1796, and were not struck again until 1804. Further, the draped bust, small eagle reverse type was issued in very sparing quantities, and perhaps 500 exist today in all grades. The combined PCGS and NGC population reports show less than 50 graded in various mint state grades. This coin resides solidly in the choice category, with its regal toning and prooflike fields. Liberty's hair, and the eagle's feathers, are especially well struck. Liberty's hair is as boldly rendered as we can imagine. We do note moderate hairlines on the delicate fields from an ancient cleaning, and these apparently limited the grade. This particular coin is identifiable by a tiny mint caused rectangular planchet flake nestled in the field between the back of Liberty's curls across from the fourth star. Free of adjustment marks or other detractions, this stunning beauty will certainly be the highlight of an advanced collection.
In the summer of 1795 the new Mint Director Henry William DeSaussure arrived at the Philadelphia Mint with two goals that he immediately addressed, the first was to coin gold for circulation, and the other was to improve Robert Scot's flowing hair designs then in use. While the necessary bond was being met that allowed coinage of gold to begin, DeSaussure engaged the famed portraitist Gilbert Stuart to submit drawings that could replace the unpopular flowing hair designs. Stuart submitted a sketch of the local beauty Anne Willing to the Mint around August of 1795, and by October two obverse dies were prepared for silver dollars. John Eckstein, and assistant engraver at the Mint, had translated Stuart's drawing into the now familiar draped bust design. Eckstein also is credited with the small eagle reverse design. During this period, the Mint had prepared dies that employed 15 stars, representing the 15 states then in the new union. By 1796, Tennessee was prepared to join the union as a state, and this was officially accomplished on June 1, 1796. However, the two new quarter obverse dies both used only 15 stars, apparently having been engraved prior to the official notice. The new quarter denomination was struck on four different occasions, beginning April 9, 1796, and continuing until February 28, 1797. Two die varieties were coined, and this is the more common of the two.
Many of the new quarters were saved as the first of their kind, and several known have prooflike surfaces which have long been considered special strikings, presentation coins, or simply proofs, although no Mint record yet discovered confirms a special striking. Col. E. H. R. Green (son of the millionaire Hetty Green) collected coins early in the last century and amassed a staggering hoard of 1796 quarters. It is believed that Green obtained over 200 1796 quarters, at least half of which were prooflike, as seen here. The late Abe Kosoff and Andre DeCoppet dispersed these quarters in the 1940s, and it is reasonable to assume that this coin came from the Green hoard.", sold for $37,950.00

Recent appearances:
AU-50, obverse field tooled, whizzed, retoned (illustrated below).  Ex - Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc.'s "2000 Santa Clara" Sale, November 16-17, 2000, Lot 5256, illustrated, not sold, where it was described (in part) as follows: "B-2, R.3. As the first U.S. quarter and the only issue of the Draped Bust, Small Eagle variety, the 1796 is an understandably important coin. With a paltry original mintage of 6,146 pieces, this issue is also a well respected rarity in all grades. This is a not unattractive coin despite several impairments. The denticles are crisply defined and the central devices are equally as sharp except for the eagle's head. The surfaces are remarkably smooth, although this is probably due to tooling and whizzing rather than careful preservation. Both sides display deep charcoal-gray coloration with copper highlights on the obverse."

About Uncirculated.  Ex - Stack's "The Marvin Taichert Collection of U.S. Type Coins", May 9, 2001, Lot 24, plated, sold for $23,000.00  Ex Auction '90, (Stack's session, August 10, lot 133)

Sharpness of AU-50 but buffed, cleaned, and not original.  Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Benson Collection, Part I", February 16, 18-20, 2001, Lot 1615, "Browning-2, Rarity-5", illustrated, sold for $10,925.00

PCGS VF-25.  Ex - William Walser - Bowers & Merena Galleries "The Rarities Sale", July 31, 2002, Lot 172, illustrated, "...Perfect dies...", sold for $13,800.00

Fine-12 Rim Filed.  Ex-  Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc.'s "October 2000 Long Beach Sale", October 5-7, 2000, Lot 6757, "Browning-2", illustrated, sold for $5,290.00  Ex: Harold A. Blauvelt Collection (Bowers&Ruddy, 2/77) lot, 283.

Fine.  Ex - Stack's "65th Anniversary Sale", October 17-19, 2000, Lot 674, "Browning 2", plated, sold for $2,070.00

VG-10, Light scratches.  Ex - Heritage's "Long Beach Signature Sale", May 31-June 2, 2001, Lot 5559, plated, sold for $3,910.00  From the Collection of Dr. Joseph M. Seventko

PCGS VG-10.  Ex - Bowers & Merena Galleries' "The Cabinet of Lucien M. LaRiviere, Part III", May 21, 2001, Lot 1429, illustrated, sold for $6,900.00

Obverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 2     Reverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 2

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles

1796 Quarter Dollar Obverse      1796 Quarter Dollar Reverse

Images courtesy of Anthony Terranova

Obverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 2     Reverse of 1796 Quarter Dollar - Browning 2

Images courtesy of Heritage Numismatic Auctions

The obverse of this piece appears to be slightly different from those illustrated above.  Most notably, the stars appear to be closer to the denticles and many of the stars have an internal nub.  Was this caused by the tooling of the coin, or is this a new variety?