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1796 Eagle, BD-1, AU58, Sole Die Pair Known
1796 $10 AU58 NGC. BD-1, R.4. Bass-Dannreuther Die
State a/a. Many beginning collectors do not realize it, but the ten
dollar denomination was in circulation to one degree or another 55
years before the first regular-issue double eagles appeared on the
scene in 1850. The "eagle" was the name chosen for this largest and
most magnificent U.S. coin denomination of the 18th century, in
tribute to and respect of our national bird.
Reflective and Well-Preserved Early Strike
Nonetheless, it was 1795 before the fledgling U.S. Mint could get the kinks worked out and the first eagles flew from the presses, even though the Mint had opened two years previously. The first issue in the denomination was thus dated 1795, produced in an amount reported as 5,583 coins. Even though there are 9 Leaves and 13 Leaves reverse varieties known, all five die pairings for 1795 show the same consistent star arrangement, 10 stars left, five right.
The second-year issue, 1796, was reportedly struck in the quantity of 4,146 pieces. The problem is, as collectors know, that the Mint reported numbers struck, not the dates on the coins. It is curious that the 1795 and 1796 issues had only a 20% mintage difference, yet the 1795 is known from five distinct die pairings, while all 1796 eagles are known from but a single marriage. As all 1796s show 16 stars on the obverse, arranged eight left, eight right, we may assume that they were struck -- or at least, the dies were prepared -- after Tennessee joined the Union on June 1, 1796. In any event, the 1796-dated eagles are far more elusive as a date than the 1795, regardless of die variety.
The 1797 Small Eagle tens are also known from a single die pair -- with stars awkwardly arranged 12 and four -- but we know that some 1796 eagles were struck after some 1797-dated pieces, based on evidence from the shared reverse die.
The present 1796 eagle is, based on the die state, among the first batch struck, as there are no obvious die cracks, clashes, or other markers on either side. This piece is only lightly circulated, showing minor field chatter but few mentionable marks, and considerable semiprooflike reflectivity remains around the protected device edges. The only singular contact is a small patch of nicks below the eagle's right (facing) wing. The surfaces are greenish-gold, quite lustrous, and highly appealing. No planchet adjustment marks occur on either side. A superlative example for type or date purposes.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# BFYM, PCGS# 8554)
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