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1795 Draped Bust, Small Eagle Five Dollar, MS63
BD-6, Popular S/D Variety
A Rare Early Mint Coin of Amazing Quality

1795 $5 Small Eagle MS63 PCGS. BD-6, R.5. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this lovely and impressive offering. First and foremost are its many aesthetic appeals. The fields are deeply reflective and nearly free of contact on the obverse, with yellow-gold and reddish-gold coloration competing for territory. The planchet is well-centered and offers a bold strike, save for minor weakness on the dentilation at the lower rim from 5 to 7 o'clock. A couple of ticks in the upper half of the Liberty cap are not bothersome, and the minor planchet roughness on Liberty's neck is as produced at the fledgling U.S. Mint. No adjustment marks appear on the obverse.
The reverse shows a couple of minor scrapes that intermingle with moderate adjustment marks, the former obviously post-Mint in origin, the latter a standard Mint technique for slightly altering overweight gold or silver planchets. But here again, the overwhelming impression for the viewer is one of amazing quality that is far too seldom seen on these earliest U.S. gold coins.
The 1795 half eagles were the first U.S. gold coins made, after nearly two years in which the Mint was forced to make only copper cents and half cents, due to the onerous requirement that chief coiner Henry Voigt and assayer Albion Cox post surety bonds of $10,000 each. This requirement is known today as the "coinage impediment." Once it was reduced and satisfied in October 1794, the Mint shifted its focus to gold and silver coinage, including silver dollars and half dollars, and gold half eagles.
The 1795 Draped Bust, Small Eagle five dollar is known today in 12 different die pairings; previous enumerations have erroneously numbered 14 or even 16. John Dannreuther writes that "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 are quite complete."
The 1795 half eagles are first-year types but not one-year types, since half eagles dated 1796, 1797, and 1798 with the Small Eagle reverse exist. The 1796/5 half eagle is the only die pairing known for that year, and the 1797-1798 Small Eagle reverse half eagles are exceedingly rare to unique, in the case of the 1798.
Once gold coinage began, Mint personnel were under pressure to turn out as much as possible given the constraining factor of bullion consignments. It is clear that some half eagles struck in 1796 were dated 1795, as well; Mint personnel paid scant heed to either the dates on the obverse or the design of the reverse, as long as coinage dies were serviceable.
The BD-6 die pairing of the present Select Mint State coin is easily identified via a number of diagnostics. The widely spaced date has a tall 7 and 5, with the 1 medium and the 9 short. The flag of the 5 tilts sharply, and half of it is embedded in the lower bust of Liberty. The last star touches the forward bust tip, and the first star touches the lowest hair curl, while the 1 in the date does not. On the reverse, the last S in STATES is broadly recut over a previous D. The engraver obviously punched in STATED (perhaps after punching in UNITED, although everything in the die is in reverse, รก la Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire)--then, realizing his blunder, he corrected the last D to an S. Such interesting gaffes increase the appeal of early U.S. Mint products in the eyes of the many collectors who pursue these early numismatic prizes.
To recapitulate, this is an amazing, historic, and ultimately desirable early gold half eagle of immense quality. Collectors cannot afford to let this piece go unnoticed.
From The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 25ND, PCGS# 8066)

View all of [The Dr. and Mrs. Claude Davis Collection ]

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Auction Dates
August, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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