Early $10 Gold 1795-1804 by Silvano DiGenova
For rare coin collectors seeking challenge and reward, Early United States Gold coins dated 1795 to 1804 are an ideal choice of specialty. Early Gold coin mintages are remarkable small and the survival rates in all grades are low, making these beautiful coins not only challenging to collect, but also potentially highly rewarding as an investment. Sophisticated collectors often become interested in early Gold coins because these coins are fascinating artifacts from our nation’s infancy, and tangible pieces of history, attesting to the development of our nations system of money.
While collectors have long known that all early Unites States Gold coins are rare, recent analysis by noted authority John Dannruther indicates that these coins are even rarer than was originally thought. The mintage figures in Mr. Dannreuther’s yet unpublished study differ in some instances from the mintages figures in “A Guide Book of United States Coins,” by R.S. Yeoman. When published, Mr. Dannreuther’s study rates to become a standard reference on the topic.
The basis of the population figures in this article is the combined number reported certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). However, in the opinion of the authors, actual populations may be as much as 20% difference than published figures in some cases, taking into consideration multiple submissions of the same coin(s). In several cases we have made some estimates where we feel the published information does not give as accurate a perspective on the true population. This is due to the services not recognizing certain varieties in the beginning of the population reports and then adding them later. Also in the case of the 1803, besides the population report variety changes, it is with near certainty that virtually all the Large Start reverse Tens certified are actually the Large Start with 14 Star reverse.
Following is a date-by-date analysis of early Eagles to use as an aid in making informed buying decisions in this challenging and rewarding series.
Eagles 1795 – 1804
Eagles are the largest denomination struck of early Gold, and the second denomination of Gold coins manufactured at the new Mint. The first Eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint on September 22, 1795.
All Early Eagles are thirty-tree millimeters in diameter, weigh 270 grains of .9167 fine Gold alloyed with .0833 Copper and Silver, have a reeded edge and were designed by Robert Scot except where otherwise mentioned. In those cases the reverse may have been engraved by John Gardner. They come in two types, with both the Small Eagle reverse and with a Large Eagle reverse. A total of 132,500 plus were minted between the two types, with 3,213 examples certified in all grades, a total survival rate of two percent for the entire series, of which 1,550 graded Uncirculated. There are only twenty-five Gem Uncirculated coins reported of all dates, or less than two hundredths of one percent.
The Small Eagle reverse was made with four major varieties, those being the 1795 13 Leave and 9 Leaves, the 1796 with 11 Leaves and the 1797. There is just a total mintage of somewhere between 13,344 and 15,251 coins, of which 524 reported certified in all grades, which is a survival rate of nearly four percent, with 154 graded Uncirculated by both grading services. I would be surprised if there really are that many coins in such a high grade, as widely known coins of this value and subjectivity are frequently regarded and often the tags are not returned. We believe a 20% or more over statement by the population reports is certainly possible.
The large Eagle reverse comes in eleven date/variety combinations, a total of 2,689 examples reported certified in all grades, of which over 1,102 are called Uncirculated. There are also the Proofs of 1804 with a Plain 4 that were struck thirty years after the date on the coin. As states before, we certainly feel like the population data is considerably overstates. Also worth nothing that unlike series such as Morgan Dollars or $20 Saint Gaudens, the majority of the known coins have been graded with the likelihood of undiscovered hoards next to nil.
Draped Bust Small Eagle Type 1795 – 1797
1795 Small Eagle 13 Leaves: With a mintage estimated at just over five thousand from two pairs of dies, this is the most “common” of the Small Eagle Type by a factor of more than two over the next “common” date 1796. With 327 graded we have a relatively large survival rate, probably because this was the first year of the Type and many must have been saved as souvenirs, accounting for the availability in most grades. The grading services have graded 105 as Uncirculated and four as MS65 or better. Certainly duplication exists. Being the first year Type and the most available of the Type, this is always sought after and fully priced within the series. Scarce in Circulated grades, rare in Mint State.
1795 Small Eagle 9 Leaves: With an estimated mintage of only five hundred coins, this is the rarest date of the Type. There are 21 examples reported certified in all grades, which is undoubtedly many of the same coins being resubmitted to the grading service. I doubt there are even the fifteen that Dannreuther seems to think survived. Twelve examples are reported certified in Uncirculated, also likely to be overstated. The population shows four coins in MS63. We are aware of only two with the possibility of three. The 9 Leaf $10 in all grades is far undervalued relative to the 1795 13 Leaf and most of the series. Very rare in all grades, extremely rare in Mint State.
1796 Small Eagle 11 Leaves: With a mintage of just over 4,100, including 125 examples reported certified in all grades makes this the second most “common” date of the Type./ The certified mintages match Dannreuther’s estimates. PCGS and NGC have reported 25 uncirculated survivors. Underrated relative the 1795 13 Leaf. Rare in all grades, very rare in Mint State.
1797 Small Eagle: With a mintage of 3,650, there are only 51 certified in all grades and just 12 in Uncirculated grades. Of the Uncirculated coins, none appear to be higher than MS62. Undervalued in all grades. Rare in all grades, exceedingly rare in Mint condition.
Draped Bust Large or Heraldic Eagle 1797 – 1804
1797 Large Eagles: With a mintage of almost eleven thousand in three die variations, the 1797 is the fourth most “common” date of the Type. There are 305 certified in all grades of which 71 are reported to be Uncirculated. Scarce and very popular as it is the first year of the new type as a result it tends to be more fully priced than the 1803 or very underrated 1800 both of greater rarity when evaluated by year and variety. Scarce in all grades, rare in Mint State.
1798/7 9X4 Stars Obverse. Overdate with nine Stars to the left of Liberty and four to the right. With the obverse of 1795, reverse by John Gardner, and an estimated mintage of nine hundred coins, of which 61 are certified in all grades, only ten of those are Uncirculated. Very rare in all grades. Exceedingly rare in Mint State. Undervalued relative to its rarity, especially in Mint State.
1798/7 7X6 Stars Obverse: Overdate with seven Stars to the left of Liberty and six to the right. With the obverse of 1795, reverse by John Gardner, and an estimated mintage of only eight hundred forty-two. Since there are only 11 coins certified in all grades, Akers call this the rarest date of the Type, and the certified numbers bear him out. Only four Uncirculated coins make this the second rarest in the series and the rarest of the major “Red Book” varieties. In general undervalued, however, always fairly expensive and only necessary to the advanced collector.
1799 Small Stars Obverse: This variety is from seven pairs of dies with an estimated mintage of 7,500. As both services did not designate this variety from the beginning, the population figures do not illustrated an accurate picture. We know that 939 total 1799 have been graded, of which 407 are Uncirculated. In examining several criteria including the following, approximately 1/3 of the 1799 $10 were Small Stars from the time NGC started making the designation. Also examining Jeff Garrett and John Dannreuther’s book on auction records, 36% are Small Stars and 64% Large Stars. It is this ratio that was used to approximate the population report. The proportion of Uncirculated was 30% and therefore we approximated 122 Small Stars in Uncirculated. The 1799 Small Stars, although nearly twice as rare as the Large Stars is still the third most common of all early Tens but at little or no premium over the 1799 Large Stars or 1801, it still presents a very good value and is relatively rare in Mint State.
1800: With a stated mintage of 6,000 from one pair of dies, it has only 198 examples certified in all grades and just 77 in Mint State. Very rare and underrated in all grades. Generally sells for less than the 1797 although far rarer. MS63 and better specimens should trade for far more.
1801: With a mintage of about 44,500 the 1801 has the largest mintage of the Type, and in fact, the early $10 series. Seven hundred sixty-seven examples certified, of which 358 were graded Uncirculated, which while not very likely does illustrate that this is the most “common” of the Type. Available readily in all grades except Gem, which of course barely exist. Very popular as the Type coin for the series. Rather than the 1799 in high grades of MS64 and up.
1803 Small Stars Reverse: The 1803 Small Star reverse has a mintage of 10,800 of which we estimate 249 are certified in all grades and 97 in Mint State grades. Far scarcer than either 1799 and the 1801, this date and variety should carry a considerable premium to those especially in Uncirculated grades.
1803 13 Large Stars Reverse: With a total estimated mintage of only 1,200 from four pairs of dies, we estimate only about four coins are graded in all grades (or less) only one Mint State coin can actually be identified through the last ten years of auctions. This is the rarest of the varieties listed here. Not well known in the marketplace, this coin is highly sought-after by several specialists. Hard to determine an accurate current value, however, what is certain that we would pay far in excess of any current price guide!
1803 14 Large Star Reverse: The extra star in the clouds, with a total estimated mintage of only 3,000 coins, we estimate 67 of the total 319 1803 graded in all varieties are the 14 Star Reverse. This variety was first identified by Harry Bass and, although rare, many more Large Start Reverses are actually the 14 Star as the Small Star is easily worn away or obscured by bag marks. Very popular and rare. Probably priced accurately in today’s market.
1804: All are the Crosslet 4 variety with Small Stars, like the 1803, except the handful of Proofs that were struck in 1834 or 1835, depending on who you ask. All three of the known Proofs have a Plain 4 with Medium Stars, according to Dannreuther. A total mintage of 3,700 business strikes of the Crosslet 4 variety, with only 89 examples surviving certified in all grades. There are 37 certified Uncirculated specimens, but no Gems. Very scarce last year of issue. Also popular because of the profound numismatic year of 1804. Additionally this is notoriously weakly struck. Some examples as high as Mint State have much of the facial and hair detail missing. Very rare in Mint State, especially well struck. Rare in Circulated grades as well as generally under valued.