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1797 Small Eagle Ten, BD-1, AU50
Obverse Star Arrangement 12x4

1797 $10 Small Eagle AU50 PCGS. BD-1, R.5. Bass-Dannreuther Die State b/b. The BD-1 is the only die pairing known for the 1797 Small Eagle ten dollar gold coins, although the year was a transitional one: The reverse changed during the year to the Large Eagle or Heraldic Eagle style, of which three die marriages are known. The 1797 Small Eagle accordingly appeals to a wide range of collectors, as it is a Guide Book-listed variety, a last-year-of-type coin, and simply a rare early gold coin that is seldom offered in any grade. Putting the rarity at R.5, Bass-Dannreuther estimate that from 55 to 65 examples survive today in all grades.
The 1797 Small Eagle variety is an anomaly that could be the start of a long and fruitful numismatic journey: It has the most asymmetrical star arrangement of any early eagle variety, a lopsided 12 stars left, 4 right ("12x4" for short). This suggests that some of our deep-pocketed collector friends might try to assemble one of each of the various obverse star arrangements -- which are all technically different design subtypes, in fact -- among the early gold eagles, which are as follows:

--Stars 10x5. 1795 Small Eagle, BD-1 through BD-5.
--Stars 8x8. 1796 BD-1.
--Stars 12x4. 1797 Small Eagle, BD-1. The present specimen.
--Stars 10x6. 1797 Large Eagle, BD-2 through BD-4.
--Stars 9x4. 1798/7 BD-1.
--Stars 7x6. 1798/7 BD-2.
--Stars 8x5. 1799-onward.

Such a type collection of early obverse star arrangements would thus comprise seven varieties, but pursuing them in the highest practicable grades could be a lifetime numismatic pursuit.
The present 1797 Small Eagle, BD-1, would certainly put the successful bidder well on the road, offering bright yellow-gold surfaces that display noticeable reddish patina around the device edges and the margins of each side. Numerous light handling marks are sprinkled around, none distracting. The strike is well-defined save for the immediate high points of each side. Population: 2 in 50, 16 finer (1/12).(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# 25ZX, PCGS# 8555)

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Auction Dates
February, 2012
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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