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Description

1795 Small Eagle Five, AU55, BD-3
First-Year Type Representative

1795 $5 Small Eagle AU55 NGC. BD-3, High R.3. Bass-Dannreuther Die State b/b. The flag of the 5 lying barely over the bottom of the bust, star 1 below and touching the curl, and star 11 intersecting the Y of LIBERTY are diagnostic for this obverse. The reverse shows a leaf touching the bottom of U, a second touching the bottom of N, and a third leaf extending beneath the I, with the wreath exhibiting two berries inside, two outside.
After two years in which the Mint could make only copper, first, and then silver coins, bureaucratic obstacles to the coinage of gold were finally removed by 1795. The 1795 half eagle issue was the first issue in gold of the "official" U.S. Mint, and the five dollar series would be the workhorse denomination for commercial transactions, particularly international ones and high-value swaps, right through to the introduction of the gold double eagle in 1850.
The first Mint Chief Engraver, Joseph Wright, unfortunately died of yellow fever in 1793, after which Director David Rittenhouse hired Robert Scot (1744-1823), a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, to fill the post. The 1795 five dollar coins, all with the Small Eagle reverse, were the first gold coin dies Scot produced.
The reported production of 8,707 half eagles for 1795 was achieved using a combination of eight obverse and nine reverse dies, mated in various combinations to produce the 12 acknowledged varieties. At one time numismatists wrongly believed that there were 14 or even 16 varieties. John Dannreuther writes, "Harry Bass studied the early half eagle series as intensely as anyone and he was unable to acquire more than 12 varieties -- he owned more than 20 examples of this date and his notes were quite complete."
The fields on this Choice AU example of the BD-3 show slight reflectivity. The surfaces have taken on a light reddish cast, but are primarily yellow-gold. The strike is particularly strong on this piece. Small abrasions appear, save for two tiny planchet voids in the lower right obverse field and a couple of pecks in the fields on each side of the wreath on the reverse.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 25ND, PCGS# 8066)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
January, 2013
9th-14th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 12
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