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Rare Uncirculated BD-6 1798 Five Dollar
Heraldic Eagle, Small 8

1798 $5 Large Eagle, Small 8 MS61 NGC. Breen-6430, BD-6, R.6. Erroneously described as a "Large 8" on the holder. The half eagles of 1798, befitting their utilitarian status in the United States' burgeoning economy of the era, are known in several different die varieties. The estimated mintage of 1798 half eagles is nearly 25,000 coins--a considerable number that understandably required multiple dies to accomplish the full production.
The transition from Small Eagle to Heraldic Eagle reverses on U.S. coinage began in 1796, and by 1798 most coins bore the Large or Heraldic Eagle reverse. (The 1795 and 1797/5 Heraldic Eagle fives are believed to have been struck in 1798.) The Small Eagle fives dated 1798 (BD-1) are great rarities; only seven examples are known of the single variety. The 1798 Heraldic Eagle fives are found in seven different Bass-Dannreuther varieties, most of them single pairings, with only the BD Obverse 2 used twice (for BD-3 and BD-4). The BD-2 variety is popular because its Obverse 1 was first used to make the BD-1 Small Eagle pairing, then remated with Reverse A for the 1798 Large Eagle. The BD-2 through BD-5 marriages are called Large 8, for their larger 8's in the obverse date (three different dies). BD-6 through BD-8 are called Small 8 in the Guide Book, but Bass-Dannreuther call them Normal 8. (The Guide Book lists three subtypes for the Large Eagle reverses: Small 8; and Large 8 with 13 Star Reverse or 14 Star Reverse.)
The present BD-6 marriage pairs the BD Small/Normal 8 Obverse 4 with the Reverse E: The normal-size 8 touches the bust (a key diagnostic, as the other Small/Normal 8 obverses lack this feature), and the 1 in the date is fat. The 13 reverse stars show an irregular cross pattern, with weirdly spaced stars in the second row; the left foot of the first A in AMERICA is close to but not touching feather 4 on the eagle's wing.
This piece is strictly Mint State, with bright yellow-gold color and semiprooflike fields. Some near-vertical adjustment marks appear in the center of the obverse. The strike is weak in the center of the reverse, but pleasingly sharp and bold around the peripheries on each side. Harry W. Bass Jr. only owned a single example of this rare variety, which the authors note may have been due to the "quick failure of the obverse die."
From The Bay State Collection, Part Two.(Registry values: P4) (NGC ID# BFX5, PCGS# 8079)

View all of [The Bay State Collection, Part Two ]

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Auction Dates
Jul-Aug, 2009
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