Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 72

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Lot 1734

1796, 6 over 5. Small eagle. NGC graded MS-61. Well struck and untoned. Brilliant semi reflective fields throughout. Only 6196 struck. This outstanding Mint State 1796 overdate Half Eagle shows a bold strike on a well prepared planchet with untoned reflective surfaces. We note some very minor planchet roughness on the reverse between ER and the denticles. This is mentioned for identification purposes since it does not detract from the coin's beauty and overall appearance. With fewer than 6200 in the often incomplete Mint records, further study done by Bass-Dannreuther estimates only 1,057-2,000 were actually struck.

The desirable first overdated half eagle issue with a Small Eagle reverse. Sharply struck excluding on the eagle's neck and body where the traditional soft image occurs; Liberty's hair and the cap are exceptionally well defined on this often poorly struck example. The nice golden surfaces are very presentable and merit your consideration because they are so free from the usual friction from circulation; there is even a trace of semi-reflective quality. Very high quality for this desirable, early gold type. Rarely offered in Mint condition

The reverse die which struck 1796/5 BD-1 was earlier used in 1795 for BD-12, and the wreath appears to have been shallowly punched into the die, attenuated leaves resulting from even a light lapping. It appears the dies clashed and were reground at some point after its 1795 use. According to Dannreuther, concerning the mintage: "although the mintage figures reported for the year 1796 undoubtedly contained coins dated 1795, there may be as many as 100 extant for this year. Many auction sales are repeat appearances, as the popularity of this single date/variety makes it a frequent trader." A marvelous opportunity for the rare gold specialist! Pop 2; 12 finer.

History: 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. Popularity has its price, however, and for the Half Eagle that price was extensive circulation. This truly was a workhorse denomination, even in the 1790s and early 19th century, and even some later issues with generous original mintages are scarce-to-rare either in an absolute sense or in Mint Condition. In fact, the Half Eagle series includes types that are among the rarest and/or most conditionally challenging in the entire U.S. gold family. The earliest Capped Bust, Small Eagle pieces are particularly hard to find in choice condition. All issues in this series suffered extensive exportation and melting due to rising gold prices on the world market.

Upon his appointment as director of the U.S. Mint in 1795, Henry William DeSaussure set two goals for himself: place gold into circulation and improve the design of all circulating coins. He achieved his first goal on July 31 of that year with the transfer of 744 Half Eagles from the chief coiner to the treasurer of the Mint. These coins bore Robert Scot's Capped Bust Right, Small Eagle design that would remain in production through early 1798. While examples were struck bearing every date from 1795 through 1798, production was interrupted on more than one occasion when the Mint closed for the yearly yellow fever epidemic that plagued Philadelphia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The 1795 is probably the most popular issue of this type due to its historically significant, first-year status, and collectors consider the 1798 Small Eagle to be by far the rarest. The overdate 1796/5 has a special place in our hearts as the earliest overdate in this illustrious $5 series.
Estimated Value $100,000 - 115,000.


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