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Press Release - March 31, 2003

Trio of Gold Rarities to Shine at St. Louis CSNS

Dallas, Texas: Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc. will be selling a trio of important American gold numismatic rarities at their Central States Numismatic Society convention auction in St. Louis. The three ‘collector favorites’ are from the collection of a distinguished West Coast numismatist who wishes to remain anonymous, as he is quietly continuing his collecting in other areas. Heritage’s official CSNS auction will take place May 1-3, 2003.

The three high-grade rarities, each with an interesting story to tell, are:
1796 $2.50 No Stars, MS60 NGC
1797 $10 Small Eagle, AU55 PCGS
1857 $20, MS64 NGC

“Considering absolute rarity, condition rarity, and importance to American numismatic history,” noted Heritage President Greg Rohan, “it is easy to be seriously impressed by this small group of coins. And knowing the collection that lies behind them makes looking forward to future auctions positively exciting. While we will be selling nearly a thousand gold coins at Central States, important coins like these cannot help but attract the attention of serious numismatists everywhere to the event.”

1796 $2.50 No Stars Obverse, Heraldic Reverse, MS60 NGC
The 1796 Quarter Eagle is one of the most significant American gold rarities, and few have survived in Mint State preservation (most survivors are F to XF). Its continuing popularity is based on three design elements: this was the first gold coin issued without stars on the obverse, the first bearing the Heraldic eagle design that would become the standard reverse for a decade, and the first coin bearing the 16th star reflecting Tennessee’s statehood. The dies are generally assigned to Robert Scot, with the obverse bearing a strong similarity to the Liberty portrayed on the 1795 Half Eagle. Harry Bass, foremost student of the series, noted that the ‘Stars’ obverse was not just a ‘No Stars’ with stars added; the later ‘With Stars’ Quarter Eagles were struck from a different die. The reverse was modeled on the Great Seal of the United States, with much consideration given over the decades to the symbolic meaning of the relative positions of the arrows and olive branches grasped by the eagle’s claws. According to traditional heraldry, olive branches of peace held in the eagle’s less honorable claw suggest militaristic intentions, so this may have been a blunder by Scot. Such arguments, of course, depend upon an unproven assumption that heraldic minutiae were widely understood.

1797 $10 Small Eagle reverse, AU55 PCGS
The rarity of the 1797 Eagle in such a high grade is best illustrated by the latest population figures; only nine have been certified as AU55, and only two finer. The third year of this design type, the 16 stars are peculiarly divided 12+4, instead of the previous 8+8 division on the 1796. A short die life seems to have doomed the 1797 mintage, the figure usually given as 3,615. This accords the 1797 as rare even before one considers attrition over more than two centuries. As Breen notes, even though the Eagle was a theoretical foundation of America’s new decimal-based monetary system, the Mint focused on producing the more commercially-needed Half Eagles. This example is Taraszka-7, with a rarity factor of R.5.

1857 $20, MS64 NGC, and Finest Known
The discovery of gold by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848, set in motion events that are as famous as the “California Gold Rush” and the “Forty-Niners,” and as little known as the attempt to oust James B. Longacre as Mint Engraver. The flood of gold into the U.S. Mint suggested that a larger denomination gold coin would increase American prestige through usage in international finance. The Gold Dollar Bill, Feb. 1849, was amended to authorize the coinage of $20s, to be called Double Eagles. Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson, in the spirit of partisan politics, wished to remove Longacre, but couldn’t because of his support from John C. Calhoun. Longacre was given the job of designing the new coin, with the intention that Chief Coiner Franklin Peale would make his life a misery during the process to drive Longacre to quit. Longacre did ultimately produce acceptable dies, and one of America’s great denominations began production during 1850. Longacre not only survived the partisan attack on him, but continued in the role of Chief Engraver until his sudden death at the age of 75 on New Year's Day, 1869. The 1857 is a scarce Philadelphia issue, with less than 30 believed to survive in Uncirculated condition, and many of those exhibit planchet problems. This piece is stunning considering the overall preservation of the issue, as befits the Finest Known survivor. It is worth noting that San Francisco issues from 1857 are now relatively common, thanks to the recovery of the S.S. Central America treasure, while the Philadelphia issues remain rare.

Full-color images of these three important pieces of numismatic history are now posted under Upcoming Highlights - Auction at Heritage’s award-winning website, The entire catalog will be posted online in mid-April.

Images, descriptions, and prices realized are available in the Permanent Auction Archives at the Heritage website, The Heritage name is recognized worldwide for bringing unparalleled value to every consignor and bidder. Year 2002 sales exceeded $170 million ($92 million at auction) and assets were approximately $30 million. is the Internet's most popular and highly trafficked rare coin site, with over 76,000 registered members. is the only coin site chosen twice by’s Best of the Web (1999 and 2001) as one of the 250 best websites on the Internet, and also won the most recent Numismatic Literary Guild award for Best Numismatic Internet Site. For more information on how to consign your coins to our next Sale contact one of our consignment coordinators at 1-800-US COINS (800.872.6467). We also invite you to visit us on the web at

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