1798 Draped Bust Silver Dollar. Small Eagle. BB-81, B-2. Rarity-3. 15 Stars. EF-40 (PCGS). CAC.Handsome iridescent toning of gold and russet on both sides, with the worn areas lighter silver as typically seen. The strike is reasonably bold on this example, with strong separation of Libertys curls and most of the eagles wing feathers present, the breast and thigh predictably smooth from wear. This is an important die marriage as it is the only 1798 silver dollar with 15 obverse stars. Furthermore it is paired with the old style reverse with the Small Eagle motif. These were struck in quite limited quantities with survivors highly sought after today.It is indeed a curiosity just why a 15 star obverse die was used, as on June 1, 1796, Tennessee joined the Union as the 16th state, and thus 16 stars would have been appropriate. However, by 1798 Philadelphia Mint policy had been to return to the original 13 stars rather than keep adding additional stars to the dies as more states joined the Union. This obverse was almost certainly engraved prior to Tennessee joining the Union and not used, then the final digit was added in 1798 and it was pressed into service. Quality die steel, even with the outdated star count, was still going to be used. Another interesting fact is the 8 punch used for the date is not seen on any other silver dollar dies, although it was used to engrave the two dies created for the 1798 ten-dollar gold pieces.This reverse die with its distinctive small letters in the legend UNITED STATES, had been paired with five previous obverse dies, including ones from 1795, 1796 and 1797, covering the entire period of the Small Eagle design. In this marriage the reverse die was lapped, likely to remove clashing that occurred sometime in 1796 and, in the process, making the devices rather shallow. The obverse eventually failed when a severe die crack formed from beneath the final star towards Libertys jaw.