Was the Capped Bust $10 eagle a failure? Let's look at the facts.
· It failed to circulate widely.
· It had so much gold content that it was more profitable to melt
than use for its $10 value.
· Much of the production was shipped overseas.
· When production of the $10 denomination was halted after fewer
than 136,000 coins were struck, none were produced for more than 30 years.
Sounds like a failure, doesn't it?
COIN VALUES: Know how much your Capped Bust $10 eagle gold
coin is worth today
All of these problems were the result of a fatal blunder by Congress
when it authorized the denomination in 1792.
Congress first considered a $10 gold coin, called the eagle, in
1786, when it proposed a coinage system that included a $10 gold coin
containing 246.268 grains of pure gold. That proposal never became law.
When in 1792 Congress finally authorized a national coinage, it
pegged the relative value of silver to gold at 15 to 1. That was a
mistake, and it doomed the $10 eagle three years before the first
specimens were ever struck.
The market relationship between the two precious metals was closer
to 16 to 1 than 15 to 1. At 15 to 1, gold coins could be melted and
sold for more than their face value in silver, notes Q. David Bowers
in his United States Gold Coins: An Illustrated History.
The $10 eagle was not a popular size. Its value was too high for
small transactions but it was too small for convenient transportation.
Compounding the problem was a decision by Congress to permit foreign
gold coins to have legal tender status in the United States.
Because of the improper valuation, and ready sources of more
convenient foreign gold coins, the Capped Bust eagle did not circulate
widely during the period in which it was struck: 1795 to 1804.
Production during that 10-year period totaled 135,592, which very
small when compared to 21st century production levels.
The final straw occurred in 1803 when France revised its
silver-to-gold ratio to 15.5 to 1. Large numbers of U.S. gold coins
were exported or melted.
President Jefferson ordered a halt to production and Mint Director
Elias Boudinot stopped production in 1804 after 3,757 eagles were struck.
No $10 eagles were struck for 30 years. A handful of 1804-dated
eagles were struck in 1834 and 1835 for inclusion in Proof sets to be
presented to foreign rulers. Those post-dated 1804 eagles can be
distinguished from the "real" thing by the Plain 4 each of
the 1834 and 1835 strikes bear (versus the Crosslet 4 of the originals).
The unpopularity of the Capped Bust gold eagle when it was in
production has only enhanced its collectibility today.
While none of the coins can be considered common, complete sets can
be built, for a price. Collectors may want to collect two type coins,
based on the two different reverse designs.
The Capped Bust obverse was mated to two distinctly different
reverses. A Small Eagle design was used in 1795, 1796 and 1797, before
a Heraldic Eagle design was introduced in 1797. Die variety collectors
will find several interesting pieces to collect: two 1798/7 overdates,
different numbers of leaves on the reverse of the 1795 coins,
different arrangements of stars in 1798, and several star-related
varieties in 1803.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: