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Exceptional 1795 Small Eagle Five, AU58
BD-3, Die State c/b

1795 $5 Small Eagle AU58 NGC. Breen-6412, BD-3, High R.3. Die State c/b. Bass-Dannreuther dies 2-B. The Y in LIBERTY and star 13 touch star 12. Since this obverse is used on three varieties for the year, attribution is narrowed to BD-3 by noting the location of the eagle's left wing in relationship to the E in AMERICA--they touch only on this variety.
The Bass-Dannreuther reference suggests that Reverse Die B must be known in a terminal state, since Obverse 2 was later paired with Reverse C; the logic being that Reverse B "must have incurred some injury to force its retirement." Dannreuther continues: "Bass had two examples of this variety and knew this obverse was used again, so he anticipated finding a coin with a fatal reverse crack." This reasoning assumes that dies were only retired when severely damaged. While that was often the case with our nation's early coinage, there were exceptions. Remarriages of dies are well known in most of the early series, proving that dies were removed from the press for various reasons and then mated with another die, or even the same die, at a later date. Eventually some dies would simply vanish--for lack of a better term--from usage. They may have suffered irreparable damage, or they may have been retired for other reasons. For example, an excess supply of dies may have simply kept a few tools out of the rotation. Or, maybe the damage was to the shank and not the die face, so evidence of a terminal die state would not be visible on the last few coins struck. There are many possibilities, although we may never know the exact scenario that occurred in the early days of the first Mint.
This example is, however, from the last known state of the reverse die. The Bass-Dannreuther book states that Reverse State b shows a crack from the edge to the E of UNITED, and is referred to in that reference as a "graver's spike or die crack." The flaw noted is clearly a die gouge and not a break. In fact, on this piece we note two other engraver marks above the E and an additional spike emanating from the right side of the adjacent T--neither of which are noted in any previous writings, to our knowledge. Perhaps, then, the current offering represents the latest die state known for the BD-3 marriage.
This early five dollar was awarded the coveted designation by NGC to denote exceptional eye appeal. It is likely that the lovely semiprooflike surfaces of this piece influenced the grader's decision. Since we know that Obverse 2 was lapped toward the end of the BD-3 die marriage, this example was probably struck shortly after the performance of that maintenance task. This well struck, green-gold survivor is one of only four 1795 half eagles to receive a and the other three pieces are all Mint State, including an MS66 piece.
From The Cherokee County Collection, Part One.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 25ND, PCGS# 8066)

View all of [The Cherokee County Collection, Part One ]

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Auction Dates
January, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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