1801 $10 MS64 NGC....
Sharp, Historic, and Conditionally Rare 1801 Eagle, BD-2, MS64, Only Four Graded Finer1801 $10 MS64 NGC. Breen-6843, Taraszka-25, BD-2, R.2. To date, researchers have determined that two obverse dies and two reverse dies were combined to create two varieties of 1801 eagles. The current BD-2 example, as classified by Bass-Dannreuther, at R.2 is the more common of the two die marriages, with 751-1000 coins estimated to exist in all grades. The other variety, BD-1, is rated R.5, although an examination of past auction records indicates that little, if any, premium has been realized due to its rarity. The reason for this is simple; few numismatists collect early eagles by die variety and, therefore, the demand is lower than the supply. Most documentation to date differentiates the two varieties by the size and position of the date, position of the obverse stars, and presence of die cracks. However, distinguishing the two varieties is most easily accomplished by examining the positional relation of the L in LIBERTY to the cap; the L nearly touches the cap on BD-1, whereas there is a noticeable gap on BD-2. The pickup point for the reverse is the location of the leaf tip to the I in AMERICA. On BD-1 the leaf tip and the I are connected, but there is a gap between the same two devices on BD-2.
Die varieties aside, the 1801 eagle is perhaps the most available date of all Heraldic Eagle ten dollar pieces, which were only minted from 1797 until 1804. However, the term "most available" does not mean common by any means, as every date in this short-lived series suffers from an uncommonly low survival rate. Although the opinions of noted researchers vary on the estimated rate of survival, it is in all likelihood less than 3% of the original cumulative mintage of the type. A review of the combined NGC and PCGS population data indicates that, thus far, both services have graded less than 2,800 examples for the entire series. Early Mint officials documented a total mintage of 119,248 Heraldic Eagle ten dollar pieces. A 3% survival rate equates to a total of 3,577 coins, which provides a reasonable margin to compensate for: early eagles that are uncertified; eagles in the holders of third-party certification companies other than NGC or PCGS; and examples submitted for grading more than once in the pursuit of a higher grade. There is a plausible explanation for the low survival rates of early eagles. In his Complete Encyclopedia, Walter Breen writes: "On December 31, 1804, coinage of this denomination halted, pursuant to verbal orders from President Thomas Jefferson. The reason was extensive melting [sic] by bullion dealers ... ." The fact that U.S. gold coinage, until 1834, was valued at a slight premium over silver coinage provided a financial incentive for bullion dealers to export the gold coins overseas, where they were predictably melted.
Of the early gold eagles that survived the melting pots, most were saved as curiosities and family heirlooms by non-collectors, which would explain why so many existing examples are cleaned, damaged, or otherwise impaired. Locating an original example in any grade is difficult, but finding an original Heraldic Eagle ten in Mint State presents a formidable challenge. The 1801 eagle has the highest recorded mintage of the series, with a total delivery of 44,344 pieces between 1801 and 1802. Yet NGC has only graded 30 coins in MS64, with one grading higher, a lone MS65 example. The numbers are similar at PCGS, with 34 coins in MS64 and only three pieces finer (4/07).
The first attribute one notices on this glorious coin are its smooth, untroubled yellow-green surfaces that radiate brilliant luster. There is a moderate amount of mint frost on the devices, and the fields are well mirrored. Mentionable abrasions are limited to a couple of small scrapes each in the left and right obverse fields. Adjustment marks are essentially absent, as a small area of such marks at the lower drapery fold is mostly struck up into the device. The strike is pleasingly sharp, with only a few of the left-side stars showing minor weakness, and brilliant articulation on the design details elsewhere, even the small feathers on the eagle's breast and neck. This piece provides an opportunity to acquire a coin that is not only a condition rarity, but also a piece of numismatic Americana that is as historically significant as it is beautiful.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 2627, PCGS# 8564)
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