1795 BD-5 Draped Bust Eagle, MS65
1795 $10 13 Leaves MS65 NGC. BD-5, R.5. The Mint Act of
April 2, 1792 authorized gold coins valued at 10 dollars, five
dollars, and two dollars and fifty cents, known as the eagle, half
eagle, and quarter eagle, respectively. The same Congressional Act
required the Mint officers, including the assayer and chief coiner,
to become bound to the United States in the amount of $10,000.
While that was not a problem for the Mint director or treasurer, it
was a major hurdle for assayer Albion Cox and chief coiner Henry
Voigt. It was that impediment, known today as the Coinage
Impediment, that prevented the production of silver and gold coins
during the first year of operations in 1793. Eventually, the bond
requirement was reduced to a level that both men could fulfill.
Silver coinage began in October 1794, and gold coinage began in
July 1795. From September through November 1795, the Philadelphia
Mint coined 2,795 eagles, and followed with another 6,934 eagles
the next year. Today, the Guide Book records a production of
5,583 1795 eagles and 4,146 1796 eagles. Delivery records from the
Mint suggest that the 1795 dies were used from September 22, 1795
through March 30, 1796, and that 1796-dated dies were used only in
June and December 1796.
Small Eagle Reverse
The Eliasberg Specimen
The Finest 1795 BD-5 Eagle
This example of 1795 BD-5 is Bass-Dannreuther Die State e/c, with severely shortened star points on the obverse and a heavy die break or chip between OF and AMERICA, slightly closer to the first A than to the F. The date is widely spaced with the 1 separated from the hair curl, and the tip of the 5 joined to the drapery. Star 1 appears to touch the lower curl but actually just misses it. Most of the stars have shortened outer points giving a distinctive appearance. The obverse die was used for three different varieties, BD-2, BD-3 (the famous 9 Leaves variety), and BD-5 (offered here). That die was drastically lapped before its use for BD-3, and again before its use for BD-5. Those lappings have led past numismatists to describe the single die as two or three different dies, leading to much confusion before John Dannreuther compiled Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties, a Study of Die States, 1795-1834, resolving a number of attribution and cataloging problems within the early gold series. The reverse die appears on BD-4 and BD-5 in approximately the same die stage for both varieties.
While date collectors will claim that the 1795 Small Eagle 10 dollar gold piece is available from time to time in Mint State grades, that statement only pertains to the BD-1 die marriage. Furthermore, there is no accurate census available for early gold varieties. Anthony Taraszka provided a limited census of early eagle varieties in United States Ten Dollar Gold Eagles, 1795 - 1804 that he published about 20 years ago, but that census is now out of date. Others who have researched the series in hopes of a detailed census include Andrew W. Pollock, III, and the present cataloger. Those efforts have never been published. The NGC Census Report and the PCGS Population Report each provide certification totals for more than a quarter century of grading, but neither provides a breakdown by die variety. For all five known die marriages, the two grading services have combined to certify 102 Mint State 1795 eagles, including five in MS65 and one in MS66 (7/13). In all grades, NGC and PCGS have certified 414 1795 eagles with an average grade of AU52. Three decades ago, the late David Akers published a survey of auction appearances for all gold coins. His survey of eagles was published in 1980, and recorded 171 auction appearances of the 1795 eagle with an average grade of XF41.
However, the BD-5 is far rarer than the other 13 Leaves varieties, with a total surviving population of only 35 to 45 pieces, according to John Dannreuther. The Taraszka reference concurs with a R.5 rating for this variety. Perhaps only four or five Mint State examples are known, including the Eliasberg specimen that remains the finest known for the variety. Taraszka described this piece from the Eliasberg Collection and two others as Choice Mint State, and two additional coins including the Harry W. Bass, Jr. specimen, as Mint State. We are certain that the Eliasberg piece is the finest known 1795 BD-5 eagle. In the 1982 Eliasberg catalog, this piece was described as a "breathtakingly beautiful specimen," with no further physical description. The coin is boldly struck with strong hair and star details on the obverse, and full feather and leaf details on the reverse. This impression is nicely centered on the flan. Both sides have brilliant and frosty orange luster with trivial marks that fail to detract from the its exceptional appearance. There are no apparent adjustment marks, save for slight marks along the reverse border.
For all varieties of 1795, we have offered 196 examples over the last two decades since our Permanent Auction Archives first appeared in 1993. There has never been an MS65 example among those auction appearances, and only six MS64 specimens have been offered. Previous to this offering, the finest example of BD-5 that we have offered grades MS61. Here is an unprecedented opportunity for an advanced early eagle collector to obtain the finest known 1795 BD-5 eagle.
Ex: Samuel Hudson Chapman (1909); John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate (1942); Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1982), lot 643.(Registry values: P5) (NGC ID# 25ZU, PCGS# 8551)
Weight: 17.50 grams
Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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