1795 Half Eagle was the
very first gold coins struck and delivered, on July 31, 1795
were $5 gold pieces, or half eagles. A total of 744 were delivered
that day, and the denomination would be struck with only short
intervals until all gold was recalled in 1795. Of the first
year of issue, a total of fifteen different varieties are known.
Of these twelve are from the so-called small-eagle type, which
would be also used on the first type of eagles, or $10 gold
piece. Another three were struck using large eagle reverse,
a design which was not introduced until mid 1797. The early
United States Mint did not pay close attention to the dies that
were used for coinage, and as such many exotic issues from the
19th and early 20th century are known. These include the previously
mentioned 1795 large eagle $5, but also the 1798 $5 with the
small eagle reverse, which shares a similar story. Positively
delivered on that last day in July 1795 was the first batch
of 1795 small eagle $5 gold pieces.
The total number of 1795 half eagles struck for circulation
usually is cited at 8,707 pieces, compromised of all deliveries
up to September 16 of the same year. Minting of half eagles
was halted for a while, presumably because the Mint wished
to start coining the larger eagles. Yet, we are still unsure
if that date truly ended the minting of 1795 small eagles,
as explained above. As such, Bass-Dannreuther, in their standard
reference titled Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties list the possible
mintage as high as 12,106. Whatever the true number is, all
varieties are scarce and as a date or type this issue is not
acquired easily. Robert P. Hilt II, who published the book
Die Varieties of Early United States Coins, has an even higher
guess at a total mintage of 14,899 for all varieties. This
number, based on the frequency of auction appearances seems
to be on the high side, although he might have been correct
at some points.
Eight obverses and nine reverses where used for coinage of
this issue. The total of twelve varieties known to exist range
in rarity from R-3+ (BD-3) to R-7+ (BD-11). Because of the
high cost of individual coins and the difficulty of completing
the full set in any date, regardless of variety makes variety
collecting a task very scarcely taken by any. Those who try,
often fail short of a few extremely difficult varieties. The
only person who ever completed, or nearly so, a set of early
half eagles by date and die variety was Harry W. Bass Jr.
His collection was used for the book further completed by
John Dannreuther, which has been the leading reference on
the subject in the last few years. With this new publication
in place, variety collecting of early gold coins might become
slightly more attractive. Obviously, it will never become
as popular as collecting the early copper series, but for
the collector with deep pockets it might become a very interesting
challenge. Because of this, we could very well see an increase
in prices for individual varieties, and this would be a great
time to secure the rare varieties.
As can be expected for these coins, which were issued when
the United States were still a young country in need of a
monetary system, many are heavily circulated. The majority
also show problems, often being damaging or cleaning. While
these pieces are usually avoided in many other series, the
rarity of the early $5 pieces makes that situation less obvious
then one would guess. For the collectors or investors who
are able to afford the highest grades, the supply is extremely
limited. Any Mint State example is rare, and seldom offered
at auction. Unbelievably, there are also a few gem pieces
known, but these are mostly locked up in specialized and type
collections. When any of those will reappear on the market
it is destined to bring a record price for the date, and it
will probably be a once in a life time opportunity.
The Half Eagle was the
very first gold coin struck at the United States mint. Starting
in 1795, the Half Eagle became the only U.S gold coin struck
in each of the 8 U.S mints may or varieties exist in the early
series with several appearing for sale very infrequently, sometimes
not being seen for years.
The Small Eagle design
Half Eagle by Scot, was one of the first acts that the then
new mint director Henry William DeSaussure had proclaimed (one
of 2, first to place gold coins in circulation, and second to
improve an coin designs in general). The series ran for only
a short terms 1795 thru 1798 with 1798 being a major variety
commanding multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in better
status of preservation.
A serious prize for specialists
as well as investors of items of great historical importance,
these Early Half Eagles have captured the imagination of collectors
since they were first made.
They are all scarce to
extremely rare and a symbol of the beginning of the United States
via its coinage and coined art.
We at U.S. Rare Coin
Investments highly recommend these coins for investments portfolios.
Whether a single coin or the long term acquisition of them
with the goal of building a set in terms of historical importances
as well as longterm profit potential, cannot be overstated
in our opinion.
The 1795, Small Eagle $5 gold piece is an extremely popular
coin, being the first year of the type and denomination. This
was true even in 1795, for the number of survivors today is
remarkably high (approaching 6% of the original mintage, whereas
most other dates rarely exceed 2 or 3%).
Circulated examples are easy to find, though pricey, and
even About Uncirculated examples can be obtained without difficulty.
Mint State examples are fairly rare and are most likely to
fall into the MS-62 category. Gems are extremely rare. A few
prooflike examples exist that have been called "presentation
pieces" or "Proofs" in the past.