One of the many superlative coins in Heritage’s 2015 January 7 – 12 FUN US Coins Signature Auction in Orlando is a breathtaking 1795 five dollar gold piece. Graded MS66 by NGC, it is not just the finest-certified 1795 half eagle seen by either of the leading grading services, it is the single finest graded United States five dollar gold piece with a pre-1800 date. In addition to its unmatched state of preservation, this coin possesses unparalleled historical significance. This is the famous BD-1 variety, widely recognized as the first variety of the first gold coin issued by the United States Mint, and delivered in a batch of just 744 examples on July 31, 1795. As such, this is arguably the most historically important regular issue United States gold coin.
In addition to its unmatched numerical grade, this awe-inspiring Gem has earned the NGC Star designation for its exceptional quality and eye appeal. Both sides display brilliant lemon-yellow mint color with a hint of pale orange that is visible when the coin is tilted under strong light. A razor-sharp strike boldly defines all the design elements, and the surfaces are pristine and nearly flawless. Perhaps most important and noteworthy are the fully prooflike fields on both the obverse and reverse.
Harry W. Bass, Jr., John Dannreuther, and Heritage’s Mark Borckardt all consider the BD-1 to be the first half eagle variety struck. The Bass-Dannreuther reference estimates that just 40-50 examples of the BD-1 variety exist in all grades.
There are three stages of each die for BD-1. The obverse has a crack at the 9, from the border to the drapery in the early state; an additional crack through the tops of TY in the middle state; and die lapping in the late state. The reverse is perfect in the early state; lapped in the middle state; and relapped in the late state.
This middle die state Premium Gem shows evidence of heavy die rust at the lower left obverse, with a die crack from the border to drapery, that grazes the left side of the 9 in the date. Another crack connects the tops of TY, and a third crack joins stars 11 and 12 to the border. The reverse has slight signs of lapping where the left facing wing joins the eagle’s body. Otherwise, there are no signs of clash marks or die cracks. The small patch of die rust at the top right corner of the F in OF appears on all known examples, to the best of our knowledge. This example is a slightly later die state than the coin in the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Core Collection, plated in the Bass-Dannreuther reference.
In addition to Bass and Dannreuther; numismatic experts Adams, Woodin, Newcomer, and Mabbott also listed this BD-1 die pair first in their variety studies. Walter Breen gave that honor to the BD-4 S over D variety. However, die state evidence clearly disproves BD-4 as first of the half eagles.
The 1795 Half Eagle was the very first gold coin struck by the United States Mint and the first delivery occurred on July 31, 1795. This was nearly three months before the first delivery of 1795 ten dollar gold pieces, which took place on September 22, 1795.
The 1795 five dollar gold piece has always been highly sought after by advanced collectors who desire an example of the first gold coin design issued by the United States Mint. Perhaps more importantly, the unsurpassed desirability and historical importance of this magnificent example can also be easily understood and appreciated by virtually anyone outside of numismatic circles.
PCGS and NGC began authenticating and grading United States coins 29 years ago. This is a chance to acquire the finest graded example — by either service — of the first gold coin ever issued by the United States Mint AND the finest graded five dollar United States gold piece with a pre-1800 date.
To be sold as Lot 4271 at the Heritage Fun Sale