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Near-Mint State 1803 Extra Star Eagle, BD-5

1803 $10 Extra Star AU58 NGC. Breen-6845, BD-5, Taraszka-30, High R.4. Although the BD-5 die marriage was known for decades, nobody seemed to notice the extra star embedded in the reverse's rightmost cloud until Harry W. Bass, Jr.'s 1966 discovery. Why the die sinker placed the star within the cloud will never be known, but such anomalies--even wildly misplaced dates and upside-down digits--exist in many 18th and 19th century coinage series of the United States. Perhaps the engraver wanted to test the punch in a seemingly inconspicuous place, or maybe it was a secret mark like the notched 13th star that was John Reich's secret signature. It is this cataloger's speculation that an issue with the existing star punch required the use of a new star punch and a test mark was made in a hidden location. Since the tool used to create the errant star was smaller than any punch used on eagles of that era, the die sinker may have made the decision to use a larger punch for spacing and layout purposes. Again, this is pure speculation. Why the Mint changed star punches at all is a more intriguing question, but the reason was likely a matter of a broken tool as opposed to a style change. Such is the allure of early American numismatics.
The rarity of this variety has been debated for years. Determining the true rarity of early gold varieties by the analysis of certified population data is risky due to the fact that most dates have a catchall category comprising different varieties, among other reasons. For a better understanding of a variety's extant population, we turn to the exhaustive research of specialists such as Harry W. Bass, Jr. and John Dannreuther who, in their 2006 treatise on the subject, estimated that approximately 100 1803 BD-5 tens have survived. The other Large Reverse Stars variety, BD-6, is even rarer, with as few of 10 extant pieces. Six different die marriages were used to strike 1803-dated eagles. The first four in the emission sequence are of the Small Reverse Stars type, and the authors opine that they are twice as plentiful--as a group--as their cousins with larger reverse stars.
This is a sharply defined example that shows even yellow-gold color. The surfaces are minimally abraded, and in fact show no singularly mentionable marks on either side. Significant portions of mint luster can be seen around the devices. (NGC ID# 262A, PCGS# 88565)

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Auction Dates
February, 2009
4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,205

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