What Not Online Auctions

HomeUS Coins1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Heraldic Eagle : A Collector's Guide

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Heraldic Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1797 Capped Bust Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..

After producing a small number (between 1,250 and 3,615) of 1797-dated Capped Bust Eagle coins with the Small Eagle reverse, the United States Mint introduced a new reverse design, which it used to strike most of the coins bearing this date. This second style, known as the Heraldic Eagle type, was produced from hubs executed by John Smith Gardner. In total, three die marriages with the new reverse were issued; these are referred to as Bass-Dannreuther varieties 2 through 4.

The Heraldic Eagle design exhibits a larger and more powerful eagle image, which stands in contrast to the simple yet elegant Small Eagle design. The design was introduced in 1796 and continued through 1807, giving American silver and gold coins a more unified and regal appearance.

It is estimated that the number of Heraldic Eagle 1797 Capped Bust Eagles struck outnumber the Small Eagle type by a factor of 3:1; however, Mint records for the period make precise accounting impossible. Numismatist John W. Dannreuther, in his more recent writings, postulates that the mintage of Heraldic Eagles could be between 8,750 and 12,500 pieces, with 1,250 to 3,615 of the Small Eagle type, as some 1796-dated Eagles struck in 1797 and some 1797 Eagles were likely struck in 1798.

Of the three die marriages of 1797 Capped Bust Heraldic Eagle Eagles, the BD-3 is the most scarce, with few Mint State survivors. The BD-4 die marriage appears to be the most prevalent, with BD-2 trailing just behind.

Identifying the Three 1797 Capped Bust Heraldic Eagle Reverse Dies

1797 Capped Bust Eagle Heraldic Eagle Revere Dies. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle Heraldic Eagle Revere Dies. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

The illustration above provides the essential pickup point for identifying the reverse die. The BD-2 eagle has a long, thin neck; the BD-3 eagle has a short, thick neck; and the BD-4 has a long, thick neck. The BD-2 variety is the only variety with a staggered left column of stars in the glory. The fifth star of BD-2 is centered above the eagle’s beak, while on BD-4, that same star is positioned just above the tip of the beak.

* * *

Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS63+ (1, 5/2023), NGC MS63 (3, 5/2024), and CAC MS63 (3:0 stickered:graded, 5/2024).

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Bass-Dannreuther-2

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-2. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-2. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

Taraszka-8. Rarity-4+. This is the first die marriage deployed to strike the Heraldic Eagle reverse of 1797 to 1804. The obverse die was fashioned from the original 1795 hub, but the reverse die comes from John Smith Gardner’s new design. Here, the eagle is depicted with a long, thin neck. Approximately 3,500 to 5,000 coins were struck from this die pairing, and Dannreuther estimates that 90 to 110 survivors exist. In the typical die state, die state b/b, thin cracks are present below the final 7 of the date. Also, a rust lump is present on the second T of STATES.

  • PCGS MS63 #46092777: “The Fairfield Collection,” Bowers and Ruddy, October 1977, Lot 1785; “The Harry W. Bass Jr. Core Collection, Part IV,” Heritage Auctions, August 10, 2023, Lot  9068 – $192,000. Bass novelty insert. Diagonal hit across hair at the ear with small planchet void below. Small tick to the left of star 13. Vertical tick below star 16. Curved marks at the top of the eagle’s head.
  • PCGS MS63 CAC #44156470: As PCGS MS63 CAC #4330689. “The New Orleans Collection,” Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2015, Lot 5381 – $164,500.As PCGS MS63 CAC #44156470. “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part VIII,” Heritage Auctions, May 5, 2022, Lot 3611 – $276,000. Simpson novelty insert. Thin scratch across Liberty’s cheek. Pair of small vertical ticks below bust truncation above 9. Tick bookends star 9. Tick in field above S of PLURIBUS and above the star above U of UNUM.
  • PCGS MS62 CAC #6592677: Jim McGuigan to Harvey B. Jacobson, by sale, 2002; “The Harvey B. Jacobson Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, November 1, 2022, Lot 4008 – $144,000. Die crack through 7. There are Copper spots to the right of 7 and in the left field to the right of star 9. Two ticks on the jaw. Tick on the neck. On the reverse, die crack between S and O. Diagonal hit on the third column of stripes on the shield.
  • PCGS MS62 #36674530: Stack’s, January 1994, Lot 1132. As PCGS MS62 #36674530. “The Anthony J. Taraszka Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2019, Lot 4010 – $102,000. Die State b/c. There is a deep cluster of hits on the cheek. Scruffy right field with deep hits to the left of star 12. Die cracks through 7 and between S and O (on the reverse).
  • NGC MS62 #1752497-005: Heritage Auctions, April 19, 2012, Lot 5291 – $74,750. There is a copper spot in the middle of the obverse right field. Two deep diagonal scratches are above Liberty’s head. There is also a spot on the bust truncation above 9. On the reverse, there is a diagonal hit on the right side of the chief.
  • PCGS MS61 CAC #08846617: “The Harrington Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, March 19, 2020, Lot 3079 – $66,000. Vertical cluster of hits in the cap. Squiggly mark in the left field behind Liberty’s hair. Tiny tick below Y. Horizontal hit in hair behind ear.
  • NGC MS61 #2046397-043: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Educational Society for $125; “The Eric P. Newman Collection, Part V,” Heritage Auctions, November 14, 2014, Lot 3312 – $44,062.50. Die clash image near the chin. Adjustment marks across the face. Diagonal scratch between star 10 and L. Reverse is much nicer. Copper spot on the chief of the shield. Tiny tick above eagle’s head.
  • PCGS MS61 #25672569: Heritage Auctions, October 29, 2015, Lot 3543 – $42,887.50. Thin tick in the area above 79. Two tiny ticks above star 1. Thin mark from low curl through the back of Liberty’s neck. Two tiny ticks on the back jaw. Copper spot below ribbon on the left side. Copper spot in the sixth column of the shield.
  • NGC MS61 #3168874-001: Heritage Auctions, February 6, 2009, Lot 2850 – $43,125. Long deep diagonal cut through hair and neck. Light obverse adjustment marks. Denticles are weakly impressed on the upper left portion of the obverse. Dark spot below crossbar of A of STATES and a dark line through IC.
  • NGC MS61 #3157551-006: Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2009, Lot 4101 – $48.875. Thin mark behind the low curls of Liberty’s hair. Planchet void in hair below cap. Thin mark below R. Disturbed denticle at 9 o’clock.
  • PCGS AU58+ #31671109: As PCGS AU58+ #25012407. Heritage Auctions, April 2013, Lot 4542; Heritage Auctions, July 11, 2013, Lot 3381 – $52,875; Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2014, Lot 5758 – $41,125; Stack’s Bowers, November 2013, Lot 2213 – $47,000. Legend Rare Coin Auctions, June 18, 2014 – July 17, 2014, Lot 191 – Passed; Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 4319 – $39,950. As PCGS AU58+ CAC #31671109. Legend Rare Coin Auctions, March 21, 2019, Lot 423 – $49,937.50. Planchet voids to the right and left of the bust truncation. Diagonal chuff to the left of the eagle’s tailfeathers.
  • PCGS AU58 CAC #6121881: “The Andrew M. Hain Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, April 5, 2022, Lot 3151 – $132,000. Rattler. Die State b/c. There is a small tick above Liberty’s cap, a small diagonal cluster of light hits on the neck, and a small tick above 9 of the date. Light disturbances in the left field in the areas of stars 1 through 3.
  • NGC AU58: Stack’s Bowers, August 7, 2012, Lot 11727 – $30,000 Reserve Not Met.

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Bass-Dannreuther-3

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-3. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-3. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

Tarazka 11. Rarity-5. This is the second Heraldic Eagle reverse listed in the major references, but researcher/collector Anthony Taraszka postulates that the production of the 1797 BD-3 likely occurred after the production of the 1798/7. Both 1798/7 die marriages use the reverse die used on the 1797 BD-3, but all known BD-3 coins are from a later die state. Dannreuther estimates that between 1,500 and 2,500 were struck. This is easily the scarcest die marriage of 1797 Capped Bust Eagles, with fewer than 50 known examples and very few in Mint State.

  • PCGS MS63 #36674531: Stack’s FPL 1994, Lot 114; “The Anthony J. Taraszka Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2019, Lot 4011 – $132,000. Taraszka novelty insert. Copper spot in hair near the coin’s center. Planchet void in the field to the right of star 5. Curved horizontal mark below lowest hair curl down to the left of 1.
  • NGC MS62 #3033091-015: Heritage Auctions, August 9, 2007, Lot 1954 – $74,750. Three clusters of small diagonal ticks in the left field. Tiny ticks at the top of the cap. Cluster of diagonal ticks on the bottom of the neck.
  • NGC MS61 #218832-001: Heritage Auctions, June 1, 2012, Lot 5107 – $86,250. Curved mark to the right tip of star 16. Deep marks (strikethrough?) at top curl, in left field next to lower curl, and in field. Three ticks in a diagonal between star 10 and L.
  • PCGS MS60 #5483142: Larry Hanks to Harvey B. Jacobson, Jr., via sale, 2004; “The Harvey B. Jacobson, Jr. Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, November 1, 2022, Lot 4009 – $72,000. Long thin scratches to the right of the second 7. Criss-crossing thin diagonal scratches through hair and neck. Two scratches that form an oval below LI.
  • PCGS AU58+ #46092778: RARCOA, August 1970, Lot 1547; “The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection, Part I,” Heritage Auctions, September 29, 2022, Lot 11060 – $72,000. Bass novelty insert. Three small ticks on the neck. Thin scratch between T and Y. Horizontal scratch (strikethrough) behind lower locks of hair.
  • NGC AU58 #3608055-001: “The Donald E. Bently Collection,” Heritage Auctions, February 27, 2014, Lot 4144 – $38,187.50; Heritage Auctions, November 6, 2014, Lot 4006 – $32,900. Stars and denticles are very weak on the right side. Criss-crossing scratches on the neck. Tick between stars 1 and 2. Carbon spot on the lowest part of the front lock of hair. On the reverse, OF AM very weak.
  • NGC AU55+ #3808478-013: Hilt Collection; “Liberty USA Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 4320 – $27,025. Hilt Collection on insert. Denticles weak on the upper right side. Deep mark in the left field. Scattered dark areas in the glory.
  • PCGS AU55 #38056002: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2020, Lot 4448 – $30,000. Hit between stars 8 and 9. Scattered dark specks on hair.

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Bass-Dannreuther-4

1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-4. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle, BD-4. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Taraszka-12. Breen 2-C. Rarity-4+. Heraldic Eagle. Three stars above eagle’s head. Long thick neck on eagle.

John Dannreuther estimates that between 3,500 and 5,000 pieces of this variety were struck and that there are 90-110 survivors. This is certainly the most frequently encountered 1797 variety to be found in Mint State.

  • PCGS MS63 #46092779: Goliad Corporation (Mike Brownlee), by sale, March 4, 1991; “The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection, Part II,” Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2023, Lot 9060 – $192,000. Bass novelty insert.
Color plate and listing from RARCOA's Auction '81 Sale.
Color plate and listing from RARCOA’s Auction ’81 Sale.
  • PCGS MS63 #31694512: Auction ’81, RARCOA, July 1981, Lot 456; “The D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part II,” Stack’s Bowers / Sotheby’s, September 30, 2015, Lot 2095 – $152,750. Pogue novelty insert.
  • NGC MS63 #1997552-002: Heritage Auctions, January 2007, Lot 3610; Heritage Auctions, May 2008, Lot 2326 – $109,250; Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2014, Lot 5759 – $117,500.
  • NGC MS63 #583744-002: Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2006, Lot 3899 – $126,500.
  • NGC MS63 #582965-001: “The Guadalupe Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 5, 2006, Lot 3522 – $115,000.
  • NGC MS62 #309523-002: “The Walter Freeman Collection, Part I,” Heritage Auctions, October 2016, Lot 3321; “The Bob Klein History of Money Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 11, 2024, Lot 4359 – $60,000.
  • PCGS MS62 #27401331: Heritage Auctions, February 9, 2023, Lot 3827 – $108,000.
  • PCGS MS62 CAC #06657838: Superior, October 7-9, 1990, Lot 2128; “The Stan Burger Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 2010, Lot 2203; Heritage Auctions, August 11, 2010, Lot 3539 – $97,750; “The Harvey B. Jacobson, Jr. Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, November 1, 2022, Lot 4010 – $180,000.
  • NGC MS62 #1852300-002: Heritage Auctions, October 25, 2006, Lot 2907 – $69,000; Heritage Auctions, April 19, 2012, Lot 5290 – $66,125.
  • NGC MS62: Stack’s Bowers, August 13, 2011, Lot 7709 – $74,750.
  • NGC MS62: Stack’s, November 13, 2007, Lot 1399 – $92,000.
  • NGC MS62: “The Dr. Tory Prestera Collection,” Stack’s, June 20, 2007, Lot 1850 – $80,500.
  • PCGS MS61 #36674533: Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries to Anthony J. Taraszka, via sale, August 1994; “The Anthony J. Taraszka Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2019, Lot 4013 – $66,000. Tarazska novelty insert; Stack’s Bowers, November 14, 2023, Lot 3190 – $55,200.
  • NGC MS61 #4627830-008: Heritage Auctions, May 3, 2023, Lot 3254 – $52,800.
  • NGC MS61 #4627830-007: Heritage Auctions, February 24, 2022, Lot 3235 – $45,600. Cluster of deep hits on the jaw. Squiggly line to the left of stars 12 and 13. On the reverse, diagonal hit between the top and middle stars on the far left.
  • NGC MS61 #1806854-001: “The Estate of Jack Lee Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2009, Lot 4100 – $46,000; Heritage Auctions, April 19, 2012 – $46,000; “The Rube Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 16, 2018, Lot 5257 – $42,000.
  • NGC MS61 #2023961-061: “The Robert Craig Family Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2018, Lot 5060 – $43,200.
  • NGC MS61 #3584479-002: Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2015, Lot 4415 – $44,650.
  • NGC MS61 #3017302-010: Heritage Auctions, February 3, 2012, Lot 4851 – $47,468.55.
  • NGC MS61 #3174101-001: Heritage Auctions, October 24, 2008, Lot 2198 – $49,350.

* * *



A right-facing portrait of Liberty wearing a cap. Some refer to the cap as a turban, a Phrygian cap, or a pileus, but its shape does not precisely convey these forms. A large curl of hair hangs over Liberty’s forehead, and her hair hangs long down the back of her neck and off of her shoulder. Liberty’s bust is wrapped in the cloth of a chiton. The date appears centered below the bust, while canted slightly to the right is LIBERTY. On the left side of the obverse, 12 stars wrap around the inside of the denticles. These stars are not centered and are roughly equidistant from one another, but the bottom star touches the 1 of the date. A wide gap exists between the 12th star and the L of LIBERTY. On the right side, four more stars (for a total of 16) wrap around the inside of the denticles. A prominent die crack is typically found on this variety and is located just below the 16th star. Denticles extend from the border of the design to the edge.


The reverse displays an eagle with outstretched wings in the center and a Union shield across its body. A banner on which E PLURIBUS UNUM is emblazoned is displayed high, across its outstretched wings above the tip of the shield. The eagle holds an olive branch in its left claw and a cluster of arrows in its right claw. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA makes nearly a complete concentric circle inside the denticulated rim, UNITED and STATES, and OF and AMERICA separated by the tips of the eagle’s wings. Underneath STATES OF is an arc of clouds. Below the clouds, above and around the eagle’s head, is a glory of small six-point stars in three short arcs, six at the top, five below, and one to each side of the eagle’s head.


The edge of the 1797 Capped Bust Eagle, Heraldic Eagle reverse is reeded, a common anti-counterfeiting measure.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1797
Denomination: One Eagle (10 Dollars USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: Likely between 1,250 and 3,615
Alloy: .9167 gold, .0833 copper
Weight: 17.5 g
Diameter: 33.0 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Robert Scot
REV Designer: Robert Scot
Quality: Business Strike


* * *

CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stacks Bowers Auction

L and C COIN Specials

David Lawrence Rare Coins Auctions