Alexander Collection impresses with 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle gold half eagle

Rarities Night Nov. 9 as auctioneer hosts official Baltimore Expo Sales
By , Coin World
Published : 10/31/17
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Stack’s Bowers Galleries official auctions of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo, taking place Nov. 9 to 12 at the Baltimore Convention Center, will include coins from what is being called the Alexander Collection.

One of the highlights, a handsome 1795 Capped Bust, Small Eagle gold $5 half eagle from the collection graded About Uncirculated 58 by Professional Coin Grading Service, has been off the market since 1947 when the collector purchased it from a dealer in Miami.

The Alexander Collection was formed by a man who came to United States as a young boy with his immigrant parents at the end of the 19th century. He would join the Navy and start a family business that survived the Great Depression, and he began collecting coins in the 1920s. As the catalog writes, “His days were spent tending to the business, but his evenings were usually dedicated to enjoying and maintaining his coin and stamp collections, both of which mainly consisted of United States issues.”

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He was a Stack’s regular, also buying from legendary dealers including Abe Kosoff, B. Max Mehl, Frank Katen, among others. The collection remained intact, though the unnamed collector passed away more than a half century ago. Stack’s Bowers remarked of the upcoming auction, “Now a new generation of collectors has the opportunity to enjoy these distinctively American artifacts collected by a passionately patriotic American.”

On the 1795 Capped Bust gold half eagle — the first gold coin struck for the United States at the Philadelphia Mint — the description reports, “Satin to semi-reflective surfaces retain much of the original finish, overall full detail also confirming a brief stint in active commerce for this well preserved example.” The eagle’s eye is clearly defined and a few light planchet adjustment marks on the reverse are seen. Planchet adjustment marks like these took place at the Mint to bring a planchet to its correct weight and are not considered damage.

The issue’s mintage of 8,707 is spread out among 12 known die marriages, of which the offered Bass-Dannreuther 3 example represents the most common die marriage with an estimated mintage of 2,000 to 3,000 coins. Stack’s Bowers places this mintage in a framework explaining the survival rate today, writing, “This is a limited total when viewed in the wider context of U.S. coinage history, to be sure, and like all pre-1834 quarter eagles, half eagles and eagles the 1795 Small Eagle five suffered a high rate of attrition through commercial use and melting.”

Three rarities are identified among the smallest American Eagles. Also in our Nov. 13 issue, columnists dissect a few poor attempts at counterfeiting American rarities and explain an obsession to search for surprise coins.

John W. Dannreuther estimated that 175 to 225 examples survive of this variety, in his 2006 book Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties: A Study of Die States, 1795-1834, and wrote that it is the most readily obtainable die marriage of the date.

The auctioneer concludes, “The present example, with superior quality and eye appeal, is sure to have no difficulty finding its way into an advanced type set or dedicated early half eagle collection.”

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