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1795 $5 Small Eagle, BD-3

Image Information

Type Coin
Title 1795 $5 Small Eagle, BD-3
Date 1795
Grade MS64
Service NGC
Service Catalog # 519852
Denomination $5

1795 $5 Small Eagle, BD-3, High R.3, MS64 NGC. CAC. Bass-Dannreuther Die State c/b, the later die state, showing a linear engraver's mark connecting the E in UNITED to the dentils. The fields are uniformly semiprooflike, and the devices show even definition that lacks sharpness only on the eagle's right (facing) leg. Old-time peach, olive, and orange-gold hues warm the surfaces, while a lack of abrasions earns the coveted CAC endorsement. This is one of the most eye-appealing Small Eagle type coins we have seen and a Condition Census example of the BD-3 die pairing. All varieties included, NGC and PCGS report nineteen 1795 Small Eagle fives in MS64 or finer, the sole finest being a lone MS66 S BD-1 at NGC (8/17), although some duplication likely exists among those figures. Our Permanent Auction Archives, begun in 1993, lists only 12 previous offerings of a 1795 half eagle in MS64 or finer, wherein just six individual coins were represented: one MS66 S, one MS65, and four MS64. Of these six, only one coin -- an MS64 -- was a BD-3, despite this variety's reputation for being plentiful among 1795 half eagles. In Mint State, BD-3 is a distinguished rarity on a par with many of the other Small Eagle die pairings. Half eagles were the inaugural gold coinage of the United States Mint, the first delivery from the Coiner occurring in July 1795. During the remainder of the year and likely leading into the first deliveries of 1796, the Mint used eight obverse and nine reverse dies to strike 1795-dated half eagles. A combined 12 different die varieties were created. Early numismatists such as John C. Randall, William H. Woodin, and Edgar Adams studied half eagle die varieties as early as the 1880s. Randall's collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 6/1885) included seven different 1795 Small Eagle die combinations. In the preface to the catalog, Woodward wrote: {blockquote}"The silver Dollars, Half Dollars and Quarters, and the early gold represent nearly every known die and combination of dies. In this respect the collection is in the first rank, and it may be said 'it is first, and there is no second.'"{/blockquote} Randall was a mentor to Woodin in studying early half eagles by die variety. Woodin's half eagle exhibit at the 1914 ANS Exhibition included 11 different die combinations of the 1795 Small Eagle; the variety not represented was BD-11, of which only 3-5 pieces are known today. The early half eagle variety studies of Woodin and Adams were influential in shaping the acclaimed die and die state analysis performed by Harry W. Bass, Jr., which is presented in detail in John Dannreuther's reference Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties (2006). Of the 12 Small Eagle varieties, BD-3 is the most plentiful. Two of the most prominent diagnostics are the close spacing of stars 11 and 12 next to the Y, and on the reverse, the wreath branches meeting equidistantly between the S and O. Woodin's ANS exhibit contained a single BD-3 coin, described thusly: {blockquote}"Obv. C. Date not so wide. Top of 5 long, touches bust. L touches turban further down, E nearest hair. "Rev. D. Four berries in a line, leaf in wreath under left part of O."{/blockquote} BD-3 likely represented a large portion of the 74 Small Eagle fives in the "Colonel" Green inventory in the 1940s, and the present example was one of the finest therein. High-grade BD-3 coins (possibly some of the same pieces as in the Green estate) also appeared earlier in the George H. Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912) and the Newcomer plates. The Smithsonian Institution eventually accumulated five examples of the variety, including one each from the Mint Cabinet, Josiah Lilly, and the Chase Manhattan donation of 1979, and two from F.A. Hauck. Dannreuther estimates that 175-225 examples of the variety survive today in all grades. The pedigree of the present example is unknown prior to "Colonel" Green. Green's extensive gold collection was acquired in increments by Stack's in the 1940s from the executors of the Green estate, Chase Manhattan National Bank. Stack's acquisition of the entire collection was motivated in part by a need to satisfy a request from King Farouk of Egypt for a complete set of United States gold coinage. His Majesty's order was the first disbursement of gold coins from the Green estate and consisted primarily of the finest pieces, early half eagles included. After the Farouk purchase, another set of Green's gold coins went to Clifford T. Weihman, and additional pieces were eventually absorbed into, among others, the collections of J.F. Bell, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., and Eric P. Newman. Eric Newman acquired this BD-3 half eagle through Stack's in February 1944, not long after King Farouk received his complete set from the same firm. It is the sole finest BD-3 coin that we have handled since 2008, when a PCGS piece in the same grade garnered $373,750 in lot 3134 of our FUN Signature sale. We believe this example is visually superior to the previous coin and is among the finest BD-3 representatives known -- an eye-catching Condition Census coin that has not traded hands in more than 73 years. Census (all varieties included): 3 in 64, 7 finer; 1 in 64 Prooflike, 1 finer (8/17). Ex: "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp and Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $225.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.

Heritage Newman IX, November 2017, lot 15102, realized $336000. Images and description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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Image Collection Eric P. Newman Collection, Part IX
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