A variety of the 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle, 13 Leaves gold $10
eagle sold for $264,500 in the Sept. 22 to 23 sale in Los Angeles by
Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers.
The eagle is graded Mint State 64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and
carried an estimate of $200,000 and up.
Of the 2,296 lots of U.S. coins, tokens, medals and paper money
offered, 86 percent reportedly sold, bringing total prices realized
for the sessions to $4,888,273. The prices realized include the 15
percent buyer’s fee added to the final closing hammer price.
Small mintages, little demand
The variety in the auction is identified as Bass-Dannreuther 4 in
Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties: A Study of Die States,
1795-1834 by John W. Dannreuther and Harry W. Bass Jr., and as
Taraszka 4 in United States Ten Dollar Gold Eagles 1795-1804
by Anthony J. Taraszka.
The Bass-Dannreuther book estimates that, from an estimated
mintage of 854 to 1,500 BD-4 1795 eagles, 60 to 80 are believed to
survive today. The total mintage for all 1795 Capped Bust eagles of
all varieties was 5,583 pieces. The variety pairs Obverse 3 with
Reverse C; the obverse is unique to this pairing, while the reverse is
used with a different obverse to create another variety.
According to the book, the BD-4 variety is the only one among five
varieties of 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle, 13 Leaves eagles where the
numeral 5 in the date does not touch the bust of Liberty. The
Bass-Dannreuther book states the characteristic of the distant 5 is
the only key diagnostic needed to identify the 1795 BD-4 variety.
According to Dannreuther: “The eagle was the second gold
denomination struck by the United States Mint. Calling it a
denomination is actually a misnomer. Even though a gold eagle was
denominated as a ten-dollar coin, our forefathers traded gold by the tale.”
Tale, in this instance, means count or tally, a number of things
taken together (i.e., the weight and purity of an individual coin).
None of the Capped Bust eagles, struck from 1795 to 1804, bear any
“Striking gold eagles that were only going to be exported or
melted was wasteful of the Mint’s production capacity,” according to
the Goldberg auction lot description.
“Production of this denomination ceased in 1804, possibly under
the orders of President Jefferson. The halt in production for the gold
eagle proved more than momentary. It wouldn’t be struck for
circulation again until 1838, at the second Philadelphia Mint.”
More rarities in high grades
Among the other top lots was a nearly perfect 1899 Coronet $5 half
eagle graded Proof 69 Ultra Cameo by NGC. It was one of just 99 struck
and the lot description proposed that it was a candidate for the
finest known of the type, suggesting that it was “deserving of a place
in the Smithsonian or some European Palace Collection!” Against an
estimate of $100,000 and up it sold for $172,500.
High-grade Indian Head 5-cent coins were offered as part of “The
Gerald Forsythe Duplicate Buffalo Nickel Collection” including a
Professional Coin Grading Service MS-66 1937-D Indian Head,
Three-Legged Bison 5-cent that sold for $51,748. Although this issue
is available in circulated and even lower Mint State grades, it
becomes rare at high Mint State levels and the catalog commented that
it is “next to unobtainable” when certified MS-66.
A rare Proof Seated Liberty half?
An 1854-O Seated Liberty, With Arrows half dollar graded Specimen
63 by NGC sold for $41,400. When the same piece was offered at a July
31, 2008, Heritage auction, the coin brought $23,002.30.
That description stated, “The real story behind this coin is lost
in the mists of history now, but the physical attributes of the piece
stand as testament that something special was done to create a
specimen striking in New Orleans in 1854. This is the only coin even
rumored to exist as a specimen or proof striking of the 1854-O half dollar.”
The Goldbergs agreed, calling the piece “a landmark rarity for the
When offered at a 1973 Stack’s auction, it was described as “a
magnificent Brilliant Proof, with full glittering surface even in the
stripes of the shield on the reverse. There is no doubt that this is a
specimen striking, not only because of its mirror surface, but also
because of the perfection of strike.”
For more information on this and future Goldberg sales, visit the
firm’s website at www.goldbergcoins.com/. Call
the firm at 310-551-2646 or 800-978-2646, or write to Ira & Larry
Goldberg Coins & Collectibles Inc., 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite
800, Los Angeles, CA 90064. ■