By James McCartney, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers
Based on the lot description by Eric Schena …..
Offered in lot 13198 of our March 2016 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo is an incredible 1799 Capped Bust Right $10 gold eagle certified MS-66 by PCGS and approved by CAC. It is the single finest 1799 eagle of any die marriage known to the aforementioned grading service. Satiny surfaces are smooth and vibrant, with yellow gold patina and tinges of faint reddish-rose iridescence along the denticles. The strike is bold throughout and the virtually pristine features are a delight to behold.
The Mint Act of 1792 established the eagle as the fundamental basis for America’s gold coinage that would serve in international commerce as an economic ambassador for the young nation. However, it was not until 1795 that coinage of the denomination commenced. According to Mint records, 37,449 Capped Bust Right eagles were struck in 1799, exhibiting two major obverse design varieties — Small Stars and Large Stars. Six obverse and six reverse dies were employed resulting in a total of 10 die combinations: eight die pairings for the Small Stars variety and only two pairings for the Large Stars. Of the two major varieties of the 1799 eagle, the Small Stars type is widely thought to have been the first struck and is the slightly scarcer of the two, albeit not by much. At some point the Small Stars punch with long, thin points broke and a new punch was prepared with stars that were shorter but much “fatter and puffier,” as Garrett and Guth note.
Roughly 800 to 900 eagles of both varieties are thought to be extant. Thanks to its comparatively generous mintage figure, the 1799 Large Stars eagle is among the most available early eagles today. The BD-10 die marriage, as represented by the present example, survived to the extent of between 300 and 400 survivors, making it the most frequently seen of the 1799 eagles.
Because of its overall availability, the 1799 Large Stars eagle has long been popular as a type coin as well as for collectors of early eagles by year. Harry W. Bass, Jr. on the other hand was an enthusiastic collector of the issue and amassed an impressive collection of 21 specimens for his cabinet, including two examples of the BD-10 variety.
Despite the denomination’s very high purchasing power in its day, a small number in Mint State are known, primarily at the lower end of the spectrum. There are a few Choice Mint State specimens recorded, though the number of grading events is likely to be inflated due to resubmissions. Above the Choice level, as with many early gold issues, the 1799 eagle is a significant condition rarity with only a few that can lay claim as Gem. The finest example offered in the legendary D. Brent Pogue Collection was “only” an MS-65+ (PCGS), emphasizing the significance of this offering.
Spectacular in its degree of preservation, this landmark MS-66 has so far defied all efforts to discern its provenance and has likely traded hands through private treaty in recent decades.
This important rarity will be offered alongside other treasures in our March 31, 2016, Rarities Night session, held in conjunction with our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in Baltimore. The entire auction is available online at StacksBowers.com. To consign to one of our upcoming auctions, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers Galleries can do for you.