1801 BD-2 Eagle, MS65
    A Census Level Specimen

    1801 $10 MS65 PCGS. Breen-6843, Taraszka-25, BD-2, R.2. Of all Capped Bust eagles struck between 1795 and 1804 -- inclusive of both the Small and Large Eagle subtypes -- only 28 examples have been certified at the MS65 level by NGC and PCGS combined, with just three finer specimens, each MS66 (11/11). That's only 31 Gem or better survivors from a collective mintage of over 130,000 ten dollar gold pieces for the entire series -- a percentage too small to record. Specific to the date, PCGS has certified only three 1801 tens as MS65, with none finer. It is not surprising, therefore, that the current offering is only the third MS65 1801 eagle to cross the auction block at Heritage, and is a reappearance of one earlier offering..
    How an early ten could have survived to this day in such pristine condition is difficult to contemplate. The number of dedicated coin collectors in America would have numbered in the teens, at most, and in 1801 the Mint was in the business of striking coins for circulation only, as opposed to the more commercial Philadelphia operations beginning in the mid-1800s, where numismatic items were struck with the intention of being sold to collectors. Even the production and distribution of coins during the early years of the first Mint was haphazard; attention was focused on proper weight with little regard afforded to aesthetic quality, and storage methods were designed around convenience as opposed to quality of preservation. So how did this piece survive the years without being subjected to even the most innocent of usage or, worse yet, succumbing to mishandling? Perhaps a banker set this eagle aside as a sample of the new issue, or maybe a wealthy family saved this coin as a memento of a child's birth. Could it have been a special sample saved by the Mint, only to subsequently be transferred to an employee's private collection at a later date? We can only speculate.
    A mere two die pairings were necessary to strike the 44,344 or so 1801-dated tens. This fact is impressive to those familiar with early coin issues. Other die marriages of this era struggled to produce 1,000 coins before falling into disrepair. Of the two die varieties for the year, one is rare with fewer than 50 examples extant, while the other, BD-2, is considered relatively common with between 600 to 800 survivors in all grades. The latter die marriage produced the piece offered here. It is most easily distinguished from BD-1 by the location of star 1 relative to Liberty's lower curl and the position of star 13 to the bust, although some researchers prefer to differentiate the two varieties by classifying the obverse stars. On BD-1 the stars have shorter spines, whereas the stars on BD-2 are more spindly in definition. The reverse dies are also different, but quite similar in appearance. Attribution is best achieved by observing the relation of the star adjacent to the eagle's beak; on BD-1 the eagle's upper and lower beak touch one spine of the star, while only the upper beak is close to the star point on BD-2.
    Lemon-gold coloration is illuminated by velvety luster on both sides of this well preserved ten. The strike is crisp and the overall eye appeal is reminiscent of the quality found on a modern coin production. This monumental offering will be recorded in future works on the subject as an important numismatic event. And, as with the sale of other great numismatic rarities, it is possible that this piece will remain in a tightly held collection for many years to come. Population: 3 in 65, 0 finer (11/11).
    From The Estate of Jack Lee (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 4110.
    From The Jim O'Neal Gold Type Collection.(Registry values: P1) (NGC ID# 2627, PCGS# 8564)

    Weight: 17.50 grams

    Metal: 91.67% Gold, 8.33% Copper

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

    View all of [The Jim O'Neal Gold Type Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    3rd-8th Tuesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
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