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Bright 1795 13 Leaves Eagle, BD-4, Choice AU
Among the Rarest 13 Leaves Pairings

1795 $10 13 Leaves AU55 PCGS. Breen-6830, Taraszka-4, BD-4, R.5. Bass-Dannreuther Obverse State b / Reverse State b. The 1795 half eagles were the first coins struck, once the requirement for the assayer and chief coiner to post onerously high surety bonds was lifted at the U.S. Mint, and silver and gold coins could be produced. But the 1795 eagles are the nation's first and largest gold coins; the twenty dollar denomination would not be introduced for federal coinage until 1850. Although we view these early Mint gold coins as remarkable historic relics--particularly when in high grades, as on the present piece--in fact, in contemporary commerce, they were little more than bullion in a preassayed form.
Bass-Dannreuther write in their eagles introduction in Early United States Gold Coin Varieties:

"Calling it a denomination is actually a misnomer. Even though a gold eagle was denominated as a ten-dollar coin, our forefathers traded gold by the tale. [Footnote: Tale, in this instance, means count or tally, a number of things taken together (i.e., the weight and purity of an individual coin).] The weight and purity were the only things important to merchants and individuals--money was gold, and gold was money. In most cases, transactions of even a nominal sum had to be settled in gold, especially whenever governments were involved. There really was no need for a stated denomination on either gold (or silver) coins, because it was known that our coins would be under extreme scrutiny and would likely be assayed by foreign mints and others as to their weight and purity. ... Thus, the gold eagle was equal to 10 silver dollars, although eagles bore no denomination until their resumption of production in 1838."

This BD-4 die pairing is easily diagnosed from the topmost left star on the obverse touching the Liberty cap, and the 13 Leaves reverse with the U in UNITED not touching a palm frond. There are five die marriages known for the 1795 eagles, all featuring the Small Eagle reverse. This BD-4 is among the most elusive of the 13 Leaves varieties, with Bass-Dannreuther estimating that 60 to 80 examples survive today in all grades.
The present coin exhibits bright, semiprooflike fields that retain much original luster, although light hairlines appear under magnification. The surfaces are largely yellow-gold, deepening into reddish accents around the devices. There are few abrasions noted on either side. A backward-Z-shaped planchet lamination occurs on the obverse just behind Liberty's head, and another is on the reverse, from the upper part of the first T in STATES into the field below A. This piece is nonetheless ultimately attractive and desirable, a coin that would form a centerpiece of an early U.S. gold type collection.
From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 25ZU, PCGS# 8551)

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Auction Dates
August, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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