Home
Newsletter
About Us
Coins For Sale
Selling Your Coins
Coin Collecting
Investing in Coins
Coin Information
Coin Articles
/World Coins
Books, Loupes etc.
Link to Us
Links
Contact Us
   
  Search 
  Sign up for our free NewsLetter
  e-mail: 
  Sign Up 
 


 

 

 

 




1804 HALF EAGLE
1804 $5
SCOT'S HERALDIC DESIGN (1798-1807)
For this denomination more than any other, the beginnings of this design are shrouded in mystery. The Heraldic rev. appears on half eagles dated 1795, which could never have been issued in that year; it appears on coins dated 1797, probably released in Dec. 1798 or Dec. 1799, following one of the then annual yellow fever epidemics. Quantities made of these anomalous emergency coinages are unknown but evidently very small. Nor do we know Scot's immediate prototype for the obv. (see preceding section); nor whether the heraldic revs, were made in summer 1796 or 1797, let alone when they first went into use. All we have is educated guesses, based on what can be deduced from scanty Archives records and from the coins themselves. But then numismatics, ancient and modern, must always depend on similar droplets of direct evidence and similar deluges of Holmesian deduction to reach its conclusions. The heraldic eagle design is Scot's inaccurate adaptation of the Great Seal of the United States (1782), with the blunder (or ill-timed militaristic bravado, which was a blunder of another kind) of placing the warlike arrows in the eagle's dexter claw (observer's 1.), the more honorable position, while relegating the olive branch of peace to his sinister claw. This design first appeared in 1796, on quarter eagles, probably in connection with Tennessee's admission to the Union as sixteenth state: Its earliest coin versions all show 16 stars above eagle, including the anachronistic half eagles dated 1795. Compare Chap. 24, Sect, iii, introductory text.
The following attempt to account for the five anomalous vars. dated 1795, 1797, and 1797/5 derives from Breen {1966} with additional data and corrections.
On the "1795" coins we find three obvs. earlier seen on Small Eagle coins, dies 5, 6, and 7 of nos. 6415-17 (die combinations 5-E, 6-E, 6-F, 6-G, and 7-H in that order). I have labeled the three Heraldic "1795" coins 5-W, 6-W, and 7-X; but 6-W preceded 5-W, as the rev. die comes unbroken with obv. 6, heavily broken with obv. 5. Obvs. 5 and 7, when combined with Heraldic revs., are always rusted. In addition, 7-X evidently followed the 1797-dated coin with the same Heraldic rev., as rev. X is unbroken with the 1797, but cracked or heavily broken with 1795 obv. 7. The circumstance of obvious rust on these dies suggests careless storage for months or years.
1804 Half EagleOrdinarily, when dies had to be stockpiled, they were picked up in tongs and dipped in a tub of hot (liquid) fat, as a sealant against moisture, to retard rusting. Because gold coins, then as later, were a major public relations item for the Mint and the federal government, the coiners normally treated these dies more carefully than those of lower denominations. Why, then, didn't anyone seal these half-eagle dies against rust? Why were they nevertheless put into use, rusted and broken, in what must have been singularly limited press runs?

We begin with Julian's hypothesis {1963, 1974, etc.} that Mint Director DeSaussure personally halted half-eagle coinage early Sept. 1795 so that issue of eagles could begin without further delay. This left several Close Date dies still fit for coinage: obvs. 5, 6, 7 (previously used), 9 (later altered to 1796), and 13 (later overdated to 1797), with obvs. 10, 11, and 12 possibly complete except for final digit of date. (We do not know what happened to obv. 8. Presumably it broke; survivors are exceedingly rare: See 6417.) Evidently all these usable dies were properly sealed and stored. Then, in early 1796, obv. 9 was overdated to read 1796/5 and sent to press. During fall 1796, the annual yellow fever epidemic made Philadelphia a no-man's land; while the Mint prepared for closure, dies were sealed and stored in a vault in the Bank of the United States.

When coinage resumed, Dec. 1796, at least one of the dies lacking final digit was dated 1797 and hardened for use. Between Jan. 4 and Aug. 28, 1797, the [3,609] half eagles delivered surely were of the Small Eagle type, dated 1796 and 1797. Immediately thereafter, word came of another yellow-fever epidemic, and the Mint closed Sept. 1, not to reopen until Nov. 9. Dies again went to storage in the Bank of the United States, but this time the closure was much more hasty than in 1796, and there may not have been enough time to seal all the dies in hot fat before carting them over to the bank. No half-eagle coinage followed reopening. In 1798, Scot made new obvs., three of them using the old Large 8 punch (which broke), three using the Small 8 from the new set of numeral punches completed in February. From Jan. 4 through Aug. 15 the Coiner delivered [21,641] half eagles: [691] Jan. 4 (Small Eagle?), [12,303] Feb. 28-May 5 (Heraldic, Large 8?), and [8,647], June 23-Aug. 15 (Heraldic, Small 8?). From Aug. 20 through Nov. 1, the Mint was again closed for the epidemic. On Dec. 5 followed [3,226], emergency issues, possibly comprising some or all of these: 1795 Heraldic, 1797/5, 1798 Rusted Dies. Other issues attributed to Dec. 1798, made in haste in various denominations to fill back orders, also show severe die rust and breakage: Evidently any dies that would stand up even briefly were used, no matter how haphazard or anachronistic their combinations.
The date 1798 is also remarkable for two types of rev. star layouts, called "cross" and "arc." In the former, stars above eagle form intersecting straight lines which create diamond-shaped patterns; in the latter, the 13 stars are in a curved row of six below clouds, a concentric arc under those, with the twelfth and thirteenth stars, respectively, at beak and behind head. The cross pattern appears on over a dozen dies of 1797-99 (including at least five half-eagle revs.) and recurs on quarter-eagle and disme revs, of 1804-5, thought to be leftovers from 1798. Compare introductory texts to Chap. 25, Sect, ii; Chap. 29, Sect, iii; Chap. 33, Sect. ii.
As one of the 1798 half-eagle revs, also shows 14 stars, this presents another problem: Why 14, not 13, 15, or 16? In 1792, when the Mint began operations, there were 15 states: the Original Thirteen plus Vermont and Kentucky; in June 1796, the "Territory South of Ohio River" became the sixteenth state under the name of Tennessee; and coin dies thereafter bore 16 stars rather than 15. There was already talk of admitting part or all of the Northwest Territory (including the present Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota) into the Union. Coin dies could not make room for indefinitely increasing numbers of stars. Mint Director Boudinot, sometime in 1797, ordered that henceforth Scot's dies should bear only 13 stars. Exceptions to this rule thereafter (aside from the 1836 Gobrecht dollar rev., the St. Gaudens double eagles, and certain commemorative coins) result from error or emergency reuse of obsolete dies. The errors include the 14-star 1798 half-eagle rev., the 1817 cent obv. with 15 stars, and the 1832 half-eagle obv. with 12; the emergency issues include the "1795" Heraldic Eagle coin with 16 rev. stars.
The date 1799 is much rarer than its mintage figure suggests. Coins delivered during this year almost certainly include many dated 1798, though some few half eagles delivered in 1800 may have borne date 1799. Large stars on the last three revs, made for this year reflect manufacture of a new star punch which continued through the next few years. The emergency delivery of [760], Dec. 28, 1799, probably includes backdated pieces from cracked and rusted dies.
Except for the 1800 with M corrected from a much larger M (probably that from the font used for eagles or silver dollars), vars. of 1800-3 are mostly minor, with the peculiarity that each obv. outlasted many minutely differing revs. The mintage figure for 1800 includes [26,006] minted in 1801 from dies of 1800. As long ago as 1860, Dr. Dickeson reported seeing half eagles dated 1801, and collectors long hunted them in vain. To date all six "1801" coins met with have proved to be forgeries, made by removing the 2 from 1802/1.
Many coins delivered in 1804 bore date 1803. The commonest var. dated 1803 (Breen 1-D) shows crack through shield, branch, and E(RICA), evidently following the two least rare 1804's, which have this same rev. uncracked or with less of the crack developed. "Large date" coins (alias "large 8") of 1804 are from a blundered die: Scot first punched 180 into the die blank, using the extra-large numeral punches intended for the $10 coins. When he positioned the 4 for hammering in next to the 0, he noticed that there was not enough room for it. The next step was to have this die blank reground to efface part of the large 180, and to enter the date from smaller punches, from the font in use for cent dies.
In 1805, the mintage figures given for Wide Date, Imperfect 1 and Close Date, Perfect 1 are conjectural but fit the relative scarcity of these types. The former, [8,083], comprises the six deliveries of March 12-June 13; the latter, [25,100], the six deliveries of Sept. 11-Dec. 21. We know that the Perfect 1 came into use to replace the broken punch of 1800-5.
Coins of 1806 generally listed as pointed and knobbed 6's actually constitute two major types. Pointed 6 coins all have stars 8 + 5 (i.e., 8 1., 5 r.); the [9,676] figure represents those minted in the first half year. Those with Knobbed 6 have stars 7 + 6. More survive from this single die-pair than of all other 1805-6 half-eagle vars. together; it is the commonest single var. of the Heraldic design in all grades including mint state. There may have been a hoard of UNCS.
Some uncertainty remains about the mintage of 1807. All official sources give [84,093] as total for the year; quarterly reports (in American State Papers-Finance and elsewhere) are plagued with typographical errors. Snowden {I860}, using documents not in the National Archives the last time I was there, claimed that the change to the new Reich design occurred on Sept. 30, 1807, and quoted [33,496] as mintage of the Heraldic design. He must have assumed that the seven deliveries of Feb. 5 through June 27 contained all the Heraldic coins. But either he made errors in addition, or typographical errors made hash of his discoveries. The true total seems to be [32,488].
Most collectors have been content with one of the design, or at best with one of each date 1798-1807. However, the vars. are so marked, and so fascinating, that in lower denominations their counterparts would have been in extreme demand as major type coins.
SCOT'S HERALDIC DESIGN
Designer, Engraver, Mint, Physical Specifications, as before.
Grade range and standards, as before, except that in addition, for VERY GOOD expect partial motto; for FINE, motto complete though some letters are weak; for VERY FINE, much of azure (horizontal shading in shield) and most wing feathers are intact.
1804 [All kinds 30,476--] Small over large date. Breen 1-A, 1-B, Blundered obv., also called "large 8," "large date," and "small over large 8."
1804 Small date, 3 vars. Price for either var. with crack through shield and E(RICA): Breen 2-E, 3-E (ill.); latter ill, in Akers {1979}, former lacks repunching on 4. Carter: 646, UNC.,

Interested to own this 1804 Half Eagle? Click Here!

<< BACK




US Rare Coin Investments 2003 - 2015 U.S. Rare Coin Investments
TERMS  |  LEGAL  |  SITE MAP
 

Have a question? Contact us here

Have a friend who might be interested?
Inform them about us now!
Your E-mail: Your Name: Friend's E-mail: Friend's Name:
Send to a Friend