1795 $5 Small Eagle, BD-1, R.5, MS61 PCGS CAC
Ex: Harry W. Bass Collection. Bass-Dannreuther Die State b/a. The matter of surety bonds may have contributed to a delay in striking the 1795 BD-1 Small Eagle half eagles -- the first variety of America's first gold coins. It was the end of July 1795 before any five dollar gold pieces were delivered, struck from dies that rusted waiting for their time in service. The initial mintage was small, estimated as 750 to 1,500 pieces struck from the BD-1 dies. Only 40 to 50 half eagles survive from the BD-1 dies. Among them are some historic and impressive Mint State examples. Obviously, a few pieces were put aside to commemorate the inaugural gold mintage.
This attractive MS61 example is one of the few Uncirculated coins that were saved for posterity. It was acquired privately in 1962 by Jimmy Hayes for his collection, before being offered in Stack's portion of Auction '84. Harry Bass, Jr. did not miss the opportunity to acquire this important half eagle for his evolving variety set. BD-1 is the sole 1795 Small Eagle variety to feature the date numerals arranged 179 5, with the 5 widely spaced from 9 and the tip of 5 hidden in Liberty's drapery. The Bass notebook describes the variety as follows:
"OBV: BERTY repunched. Date numerals apart, spaced 179 5. Top point of 5 well imbedded in drapery. Rust lumps in lowest curls, field, date. Crack edge -- left side of 9. REV: 4 berries. Leaves run into bottom of U and left base of N. Rust lumps. Lapped."
The early Mint was inexperienced at hardening dies. Some dies cracked before a single coin was struck, and others lasted for only a short time in service. The BD-1 obverse die may represent both traits, with an ubiquitous die crack that runs vertically along the left side of 9 in the date (seen on all examples), and likely fewer than 1,500 pieces produced before the die failed. Despite those factors, this coin is exceptionally well struck throughout the obverse. The reverse shows brief weakness at the eagle's neck, breast feathers, and leg plus a few remnant adjustment marks that are extremely faint across the eagle's breast, not entirely eliminated by the strike. The reverse die survived to strike an even smaller BD-2 mintage before it, too, succumbed.
Orange accents over rich, medium-gold color imparts an antique-gold appearance to semiprooflike fields, while the raised elements are lightly frosted and sharply defined for bold eye appeal. Few collectors are fortunate enough to own an example of the nation's first federal gold coinage in any grade, and only one can claim ownership of the Bass Core Collection Mint State representative, an unmatched provenance.
Ex: Jimmy Hayes, purchased at private treaty from Robert Batchelder at the 1962 ANA convention; Jimmy Hayes Collection/Auction '84 (Stack's, 7/1984), lot 1413; The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection.
From The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection, Part I.