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Highly Prized 1798/7 Eagle With 7x6 Star Arrangement, Tied For Finest Known With The Lilly/Smithsonian Coin

1798/7 $10 7x6 Stars MS62 PCGS. B. 2-A, Taraszka-10, R.6. The 1798/7 with the 7x6 star arrangement is the second rarest eagle in the entire series, second only to the 1795 Nine Leaves. Only 842 pieces were struck before the dies broke, and the most recent estimate of the number of survivors is a paltry 15 coins (per Anthony Taraszka). This is the #2 coin on Taraszka's roster of Significant Specimens, and equal in grade to the Smithsonian's coin, both of which are graded Choice MS on his roster. Harry Bass considered "the evenly spaced obverse die...among the finest looking in the series."
Virtually everyone who has written about this rarity has made mention of the extensive die cracks on the obverse. Without mentioning them individually, there are four main cracks on the obverse and one light one on the reverse. Neither die was reused when mintage resumed on May 14, 1799. The obverse die was clearly unusable and may very well have been responsible for the early retirement of this die after only 842 strikings. The reverse die, however, only shows a faint crack through the top of AMERICA, and one would think that the early Mint employees might have been able to reuse this particular die. Interestingly, this short issue was actually struck before two 1797 varieties (2C and 2D).
This coin was owned at one time by King Farouk, and when B. Max Mehl sold some of Farouk's holdings in 1948 he made the observation that, "It was sold to His Majesty as 'unique in this condition.' This is a dangerous statement to make. I can say, however, that it is as beautiful a specimen of this rare eagle as I know of." That opinion about the coin's condition was then followed up by a bit of sheer hucksterism that Mehl was so famous for: "It is so perfectly struck that it shows a light die break from border through E of LIBERTY, and another light die break from border through left portion of first star at top of left to Liberty cap."
The rarity of this coin, though, needs no hype or superlatives. It simply speaks for itself. We have never handled an example of this coin in any grade since we first began in the auction business in 1976. Nor have very many other auction houses for that matter. Our records indicate this is the first time a 7x6 1798/7 ten has been offered in any grade at public auction since 1999. Mehl was correct about one thing, this is a beautiful coin. The surfaces are exceptionally clean and the fields show moderate reflectivity, as do many early tens. The striking details are strongly impressed, especially on Liberty's hair curls, with the only area of softness being on the highpoint of the eagle's breast just above the shield. The bright golden-orange color of the coin is intermixed with an occasional light dab of rose patina from the copper alloy of the planchet. Identifiable as the Farouk specimen by the presence of a small planchet flake in the right obverse field in line with star 11, and a short diagonal mark in the right reverse field just below the right end of the scroll. How many more years will it be before this rarity will be offered again at public auction?
Ex: Colonel E.H. Green; A Royal Sale / Farouk (B. Max Mehl, March 1948), lot 273, where it brought $1,050; Grant Pierce (Stack's, 5/65), lot 1436; J.W. Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/86), lot 179.(#8561) (Registry values: P8) (NGC ID# BFYS, PCGS# 8561)

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Auction Dates
January, 2004
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,071

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