Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 39

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Lot 2240

1798 $5 Capped Bust. Large eagle, large 8, 14 stars. . Breen Encyclopedia-6427, Breen-2C. NGC graded MS-60. For purposes of tracing this coin's future whereabouts, it resides in NGC holder 4066491-002. Early die state without the rim breaks above ES and OF. Free from problems, such as adjustment marks. That final note about the adjustment marks is a key point when evaluating this extremely rare variety. In the early years of the 1800s, mint workers weighed each and every gold or silver planchet before sending it to the coiner for striking. Gold, in particular, is valuable; it would have been nonsensical to issue overweight coinage. Therefore, the mints hired "adjusters" (usually women) who weighed each planchet. Any that they found overweight were filed down with a steel file, either near the rim or across the center of the planchet. The resulting parallel "adjustment marks" remained visible in many cases, even after the coin was struck. This handsome 1798 half eagle is free from such marks.

This lustrous coin, which also happens to be the finest certified by NGC and the only Mint State example we've ever seen, has a few small abrasions on the neck and in Liberty's hair consistent with the grade. Similar to the obverse, on the reverse are found a very few light marks, again consistent with MS60 quality, but generally less distinguishing than expected. All this is perhaps obvious from the photos. What we need to emphasize too is that the strike is unusually crisp and detailed for the 1798 14 star reverse variety, with the outstanding sharp metal flows into the deepest recesses of the dies on both sides. After five minutes of silent and intense thought and inspection spent with this handsome 1798 half eagle rarity, prospective bidders will find many things to like about it and will desire to own it. Pop 1; none finer (PCGS # 8080) .

The engraver of the reverse die added an extra star, unwittingly creating a unique type coin for modern collectors. The 1798 14 Stars variety is rare and highly desired today. Possibly 20 to 25 examples of this variety exist, usually circulated. (So popular was it with one collector that there were four of these owned by Texas numismatist, Harry Bass!) Walter Breen attempted to justify star counts in relation to the number of states in the union at any given time. He had difficulty explaining this count of 14 stars, which was likely a simple engraving blunder. This is considered a separate design type and popular among collectors, but rarely offered for sale.
Estimated Value $70,000 - 80,000.

Realized $115,000

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