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    1797 Ten Dollar, MS63
    BD-4, Among the Finest Known of the Date

    1797 $10 Large Eagle MS63 NGC. BD-4, High R.4. Bass-Dannreuther Die State d/b. Take a one dollar bill out of your pocket or purse and look at the reverse. If you are not a specialist in early gold and yet the Large Eagle design on this early eagle looks familiar, it is because both are renditions of the Great Seal of the United States. Even today the one-dollar-bill version shows a straight-sided shield attached to the eagle's breast, with outstretched wings and E PLURIBUS UNUM on a scroll. On the early eagle design, however, a heraldic miscue exists: The eagle clutches the olive branch of peace in the sinister, or less-honorable, claw, while the arrows of war are in his dexter, or more-honorable claw, in effect signaling "war is more honorable than peace." That heraldic snafu is rectified on the one dollar bill.

    The twenty dollar double eagles were latecomers to American numismatics, making their debut in 1850 only after the discovery of vast reserves of gold in California. The Bass-Dannreuther Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties (2006) makes some interesting comments regarding the majesty and impressive beauty of this largest of early U.S. gold coin denominations:

    "The early eagles are some of the most prized acquisitions in all of numismatics. The Large Eagle type is full of rarities and there really are only two dates that can be considered available. Calling the 1799 and 1801 common is only relative, as the number of survivors of each date is probably in the high hundreds or certainly not many more than a thousand of each date. Every early eagle date is rarer than, say, an 1856 Flying Eagle cent and many times rarer than a 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln cent. These too are great collector coins, but when one gazes upon an early eagle, there is a certain thrill in just viewing such an impressive coin."

    The Small Eagle ten dollar pieces were struck with dates 1795, 1796, and 1797, but the mintage was probably produced only from September 1795 until June 1797. A single variety of 1797 Small Eagle is known, while there are three variants of the 1797 Large Eagle coins, from a single obverse die and three reverse dies. The common obverse shows a die crack running from the rim through the last 7 in the date and onward to the bust on all known specimens. The stars are arranged 10 x 6. The inner point of star 10 grows successively shorter, through lapping, when paired with each subsequent reverse.

    The reverses are distinguished chiefly by the style of the eagle's neck and the arrangement of stars. On the BD-4 Large Eagle reverse, the eagle's neck is long and thick, but tapered, and the stars have an unusual cross pattern. On the BD-3 the neck is short and thick, and the stars are arranged in equidistant arcs. The BD-2 shows the long thin neck, but the stars have an even, symmetrical cross pattern. (Although not noted in Bass-Dannreuther, perhaps an easier way to distinguish BD-2 from BD-4 is to look at the position of the S in the motto compared to the eagle's breast. On BD-4 the breast intersects the scroll bearing the motto to the left of the S, while on BD-2 it intersects to the right of the S.) On BD-4 stars 1, 7, and 12 are in a straight line, as are stars 9, 10, and 11.

    The present example boasts beautiful yellow-gold color and rich luster. From the last die state recorded in Bass-Dannreuther, with obverse star point 10 shortest; reverse die cracks from rim to tail; another from rim to left side of R to top leaf; and another from rim through C to leaf. Both sides are free of adjustment marks, but a couple of scrapes are noted left of the date. Beautiful and rare. Census: 3 in 63, 1 finer (3/14).
    Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3610; Central States Signature (Heritage, 5/2008), lot 2326.(Registry values: P3) (NGC ID# 25ZY, PCGS# 8559)

    Weight: 17.50 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    23rd-27th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,197

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