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Coin Profiles: Monumental 1795 $10 Gold Eagle, 13 Leaves Featured in Heritage Fun Sale

This 1795 13 Leaves eagle, BD-1, certified MS64 NGC, is a monumentally important coin in both aesthetic and historic terms. The obverse of the BD-1 variety is attributed by the 1 close to the lowest lock of hair, with a closely spaced date and the flag of the 5 overlying the drapery. Star 11 is quite close to the Y adjacent, which shows two tiny “lumps” (a die line, in reality) on the left outside serif. The stars are arranged 10 and five (as on all five 1795 Bass-Dannreuther varieties), with the right-side stars cramped tightly together. This is the only pairing that employs this particular obverse.

The 13 Leaves reverse shows a palm leaf virtually touching the left bottom of the U in UNITED, and the tip of the branch stem just about bisects the bottom of the last A in AMERICA.

As mentioned, the obverse this variety is unique to this die marriage. The reverse, on the other hand, is shared with the BD-2, slightly rarer at High R.4. John Dannreuther writes in Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties:

“Bass had a State c/b of this variety that was sold in Bass III. There likely, as noted, is a later state of this obverse die, as this variety is its only use. The obverse die broke or received some other fatal injury to cause it to be retired.”

The obverse of this example shows about the same state of die advancement as the Bass coin, with a light die crack running from the rim above star 10, through star 9 and downward through all left-side stars, continuing from there to the bottoms of the 1 and 7 in the date before terminating just below the 9. Another wispy die crack runs from a point of star 13 through the upper part of star 14 and the center of star 15 before ending at the forward bust tip.

The determination of the reverse die state (or stage) is more problematic; light planchet adjustment marks appear in most of the areas diagnostic for die states. Suffice it to say that no cracks are obvious among those enumerated in Bass-Dannreuther.

More important than the die state–which in any case matters to some specialists-researchers a great deal and to many type collectors little at all–is the enormous aesthetic appeal of this coin, which we believe surpasses the Bass III coin mentioned. The orange-gold surfaces show vibrant, prooflike luster throughout both sides, a trait that some Mint State specimens do show. Dannreuther writes in this regard:

“There are prooflike examples known [of the BD-1], and it is possible that at least one presentation striking could exist. Supposedly, an example of the 1795 eagle that was given to President Washington is still at Mt. Vernon. The prooflike Smithsonian coin, likely once owned by Chief Coiner Henry Voigt and Adam Eckfeldt, is of this variety, but appears not to be specially struck.”

While the jury is out on whether this coin was “specially struck,” it nonetheless seems to have been produced with special care, despite a few random small die cracks that were workaday occurrences in the early Mint. The very fact that an example was apparently presented to George Washington is strong evidence that this die pairing was the first employed for this largest and most prestigious U.S. coinage denomination in its debut year. If so, it follows that the pieces were likely struck with special care that was not extended to many contemporary issues.

The planchet on this piece shows a few minor adjustment marks at the left obverse rim, with other faint ones in the lower hair and some at the reverse rim on both sides and the bottom. All of these adjustment marks, however, are much fainter than normally seen on early U.S. gold and largely confined to the denticles. The coiner seems to have chosen a blank planchet that was free of any adjustment marks in the centers. The prooflike luster also indicates special care taken with the dies and the strike, which is bold throughout if not completely full in the centers.

The subsequent preservation is virtually impeccable, with the grade largely accounted for by some minuscule contact marks in the left (facing) obverse field, behind Liberty’s cap.

Depending on the number of duplications present within the certified population data, this near-Gem is either at the lower end of the Condition Census or firmly within the middle of it. The current certified populations for the Three Leaves varieties show three pieces in MS64 at PCGS, with two in MS65 and one in MS66. At NGC, this MS64 specimen is one of two so certified, with two in MS65 finer (10/10). As always, the possibility of duplications in these data is omnipresent.

It has been three years since Heritage has offered a Three Leaves 1795 eagle in such remarkable condition. Census: 2 in 64, 2 finer (10/10). (#8551)

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