Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 44

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Lot 2359

1796/5 $5 Capped Bust. Small eagle. . BD-1, B. 9-I, Miller-16, the only known dies. Rarity-4+. NGC graded MS-61. Well struck with wonderful clean and lustrous surfaces. Free from adjustment marks and other defects. A lovely Brilliant Uncirculated representative of this scarcer small eagle $5 gold piece, both sides exhibit award-winning yellow-gold color with faint traces of green-gold overtones discernible at certain angles. The strike is nicely centered on the planchet, and best of all, it is also sharply executed over virtually all elements of the design. Modest hints of semi-reflectivity flash from the fields as the coin rotates under a light, and they enhance already pleasing eye appeal. A definite find for the better-date type collector seeking a representative of this, the premier type in the U.S. half eagle series. Pop 2; 11 finer, 5 in 62, 2 in 63, 3 in 64, 1 in 65 (PCGS # 8067) .

Historical note: There is only one known die marriage of the 1796 Half Eagle, and its obverse is an overdate that employs an unused 1795-dated die of the Close Date variety. Although federal records indicate that 6,196 Half Eagles were delivered in 1796, there is some question as to exactly which date these coins bore. Walter Breen (1988) opines that all were 1796/5, and he further asserts that an additional 623 coins delivered in 1797 were also struck using this die marriage. If true, the author's theory would yield a total mintage figure of 7,253 pieces for the 1796/5.

Breen's suggested mintage figure for this issue fails to hold up when one considers that, if accurate, the 1796/5 would have been produced in nearly as large a quantity as the 1795 small eagle. This cannot be possible. The 1796/5 is much rarer. Additionally, the Mint required 12 die marriages to strike the 1795 Small Eagle but, as previously stated, there is only a single known variety of the 1796/5.

We believe that many of the 6,196 Half Eagles struck in 1796 were may have been from 1795-dated dies. A few of these were likely dated 1796/5, nonetheless, and strong candidates would be those pieces struck toward the end of the year.

The Half Eagle has the distinction of being the first gold coin struck in the United States Mint. Production begin in 1795, and it remained fairly steady through the denomination's end in 1929. For much of its life, the Half Eagle was the most popular gold coin with banks and other bullion depositors, and it was definitely favored over the quarter eagle and eagle during the early decades of Philadelphia Mint operations.
Estimated Value $100,000 - 110,000.

Realized $120,750

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