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Draped Bust $5 (1795-1807)
1795 Half Eagle
SMALL EAGLE ON REVERSE (1795 - 1798)

Half Eagles - Half eagles appeared in 1795, two years after the first American copper coins and one year after the first silver coins. Much of the delay in the appearance of the $5 denomination can be attributed to a lack of gold bullion being deposited at the Mint, but we also know that some of the Mint officials had difficulty obtaining performance bonds allowing them to handle precious metals.

The first type shows a liberty cap-carried on a pole on the half cents and large cents planted firmly on Liberty's head. A long strand of hair wraps unnaturally around the cap, creating the false impression of a turban (this design is sometimes called the Turban Head). The reverse features a scrawny eagle perched atop a palm branch, holding a wreath in its beak. The same designs were used on the first $10 gold pieces, which also debuted in 1795. Only the Philadelphia Mint produced this type. No Proofs or presentations strikes were made. Mintages for this type are very low, and survivors of any date are very scarce, making it one of the most desirable and valuable of all early types. Because the dies were hand-made, numerous varieties exist.

The coin was designed by Robert Scot. The obverse features a head of Liberty facing right, wearing not a turban, but a stylized freedman's cap. The word LIBERTY appears above and to the right of her head. Either 15 or 16 stars are arranged on either side of Liberty's head and the date appears at the base of the obverse. The reverse shows a wan-looking eagle perched on a palm branch, its wings outstretched, holding a wreath of an olive branch in its beak. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arc around the top of the reverse.

Specifications:
Weight: 8.75 grams
Composition: .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper
Diameter: 25 millimeters
Edge: reeded

DATE NOTES

1795 Half Eagle

In total 492 have been certified by both grading services. The numbers are probably inflated as a result of crossovers and resubmissions. The finest is a single MS66 at NGC. One variety has the final S in STATES punched over a D. The rare 1795 Eagle and Shield reverse is believed to have been struck in 1798. Mintage for Circulation: 8,707

1796 Half Eagle

1796 Small Eagle, 6 over 5. Only 75 to 100 are known. 61 have been certified by both grading services. The finest is a single MS65 at NGC. Mintage for Circulation: 6,196

1797 Half Eagle

Found with either 15 or 16 stars on the reverse. Only 18 to 20 are known with 15 Stars. 8 have been certified by both services. The finest is a single MS60 at NGC. Only 20 to 25 are known with 16 Stars. 18 have been certified by both services. The finest is a single MS61 at PCGS. Mintage for Circulation: 3,609

1798 Half Eagle

Extremely Rare! Only 7 are known; the finest is an AU55 at NGC. 1798 Half Eagle, Small Eagle. Mintage for Circulation: Unknown


1799 Half Eagle
LARGE EAGLE ON REVERSE (1795 - 1807)

Capped Bust to Right, Heraldic Eagle (1795 to 1807). In 1797, Robert Scot created a heraldic reverse design for the half eagle and eagle, a theme that would eventually be echoed on all U.S. coins except for the half-cent and cent. (Coins of this type dated 1795 are thought to have been struck in 1798.) Scot's Heraldic Eagle reverse borrowed heavily from the Great Seal of the United States, which was affixed to all official government documents.

The success of the half eagle depended on the quantity of gold bullion deposited at the Mint. Because only small amounts of gold were received by the Mint in its early years, quantities struck for this type are generally low. However, mintages trended upward as the years passed. Coins were struck in every year except 1801, when all of the gold deposits were used to strike eagle coins.

The 1795-dated Heraldic Eagle half eagle was actually struck later, using an odd combination of a leftover 1795 obverse and a reverse of the new type. Most likely, this odd "mule" was struck in 1798, at the same time as the 1798 Small Eagle reverse half eagle. This type has many interesting varieties, including some overdates (1797/5, 1802/1 and 1803/2). In 1797, obverses can be found with either 15 or 16 Stars (this number was lowered to 13 stars beginning in 1798). In 1798, obverses come with either a large or a small 8 in the date and, on the reverse, either 13 or 14 stars above the eagle's head. As with most early American gold and silver coins, this type often has problems with adjustment marks and/or weak or uneven strikes. Buyers should also beware of cleaned and/or repaired examples. All examples of this type were struck at the Philadelphia Mint (the only coinage facility existing at the time). No Proofs were made, but one 1795 eagle with a Heraldic Eagle reverse has been certified as a Specimen.

Designed by Robert Scot, the coin uses the same obverse design as the previous issue. The reverse features a heraldic eagle, patterned after the Great Seal of the United States. However, Scot mixed up the positions of the arrows and olive branch. The arrows held in the wrong claw signify defiant militarism. Either Scot made an error copying the image of the Great Seal, or he deliberately changed the symbolism in keeping with very warlike stance. Considering that the United States at this time was engaged in a naval war with France (the undeclared Franco-American War of 1798 to 1800, which took place on the East coast of North America and the Caribbean and resulted in the end of French privateer attacks on U.S. shipping), the latter is probably more likely. The French would be especially sensitive to a message within the heraldry, and the young United States was brash in that they had just defeated the super power, England in gaining independence. In the field above the eagle are thirteen stars and above them, an arc of clouds. A banner from wing to wing has the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the eagle.

Specifications:
Weight: 8.75 grams
Composition: .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper
Diameter: 25 millimeters
Edge: reeded

DATE NOTES
1795 Half Eagle

1795 Half Eagle, Large Eagle One example has been graded SP64 by NGC. Mintage for Circulation: Unknown

1797 Half Eagle

Found with a 1797/5 overdate and a sixteen star obverse, all of which are believed to have been made in 1798. 1797 Half Eagle, Large Eagle

1798 Half Eagle

Found with Small and Large 8's in the date. The Large 8's come with either 13 or 14 stars on the reverse. 1798 Half Eagle, Large Eagle

1799 Half Eagle  
1800 Half Eagle  
1802 Half Eagle  
1803 Half Eagle  
1804 Half Eagle

One variety has a Small 8 over a Large 8!

1805 Half Eagle

1805 Half Eagle

1806 Half Eagle

Two different punches were used giving a Round and Pointed Top 6. The Pointed Top 6 is rarer variety. There is also a Pointed Top 6 with 8 X 5 obverse stars. Only 10 to 12 are known.

1807 Half Eagle

Rare above MS63 with only 13 certified in MS64 and 2 in MS65 by both grading services.



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