Gold half-eagle coin from George Washington's Presidency is for sale

This weekend sees Heritage's rare coin auction at Sacramento which includes many fine pieces from the exceptional collection of the much-mourned 'Dusty' Lee Gibson, including a 1793 chain cent.

One exceptional piece not yet mentioned however is a highly important gold rarity, dating from just after the chain cent, when America's independent coin-making was still in its infancy.

This is a 1796/5 $5 Small Eagle graded AU53 by the PCGS. Half eagles were the first gold coins minted by the United States, beginning at the end of July 1795.

Philadelphia Mint records show a total production of 8,707 half eagles in 1795 and 6,196 in 1796, but most of the latter were actually dated 1795. Current rarity ratings indicate that about 600 1795 Small Eagle half eagles and 100 1796 half eagles survive in all grades.

1796 gold half-eagle coin
1796 gold half-eagle coin

The limited die states recorded for all 1796 half eagles provide another clue to the small mintage of coins bearing the 1796 date. A single die marriage is known, with a few examples having a short die crack at the bottom obverse.

The present specimen is different from any of those that Heritage has offered in the past. Both sides have light yellow surfaces with splashes of orange toning near the borders. Small green spots at the upper reverse appear to be attached to the surface of the coin rather than imbedded in the surface.

Both sides show trivial marks and minor hairlines. Two tiny nicks in the right obverse field should prove useful for provenance hunters.

The piece is set to sell during the March 17-20th auction in Sacramento, California with a reserve price of $47,500. It will make an excellent investment


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