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Small Eagle Five Dollar coin from 1795 passes the $125,000 mark at Heritage

With over a week of bidding to go, the star of the Virginia Beach collection is exciting collectors


Heritage's 2011 June Long Beach Signature US Coin Auction, is taking place on June 2-5, and as you would expect is offering some spectacular pieces.

The sale is anchored by the Virginia Beach Collection, an outstanding aggregation totalling fewer than four dozen lots, yet offering a diverse array of delicacies which add up to a seven-figure sum.

These include a 1795 Draped Bust, Off Centre silver dollar in MS62, a K-9 1855 Wass Molitor fifty dollar Territorial piece graded AU50 and a stunning 1895 dollar rated PR67 Ultra Cameo.

One particular highlight is a 1795 Small Eagle Five Dollar, graded MS64 - a very rare BD-2 die pairing of the first US Mint gold coin issue.

1795 gold small eagle five dollar
Not worth melting... the 1795 gold small eagle five dollar

Although collectors today tend to think of the fabulously rare half eagles of the 1810s and 1820s -- the 1815 and 1822 chief among them -- when thinking about the mass meltings of the 1830s that virtually extinguished certain issues, the same principle applies to earlier coins such as the 1795 Small Eagle fives.

Their high intrinsic value, coupled with rising gold prices during the period 1795-1834, meant that by the early 1830s they were worth more melted than their nominal or face value.

The half eagle was the most important gold denomination to the early U.S. Mint, which had opened for coinage only two years before, in 1793, so it was fitting that once various procedural difficulties were cleared up - surety bonds for key employees - that the 1795 Small Eagle coins would be the first gold to fall from the presses. Minted to the extent of 8,707 coins, the 1795 Small Eagles fall into 12 different die marriages.

Of those 12, only the BD-3, at High R.3, can be considered "merely" somewhat scarce, while the other 11 range from rare to exceedingly rare. The present coin, BD-2, is a very rare variety with the R.6 rarity rating. It is also a conditional as well as absolute rarity at the near-Gem level.

A bid of $125,000 has already been tabled for the coin, which will make an excellent investment.

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Images: Heritage

Last updated: 24 May 2011