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September 26, 2014



Click on Coin Image to enlarge

1865 $20 Brother Jonathan PCGS MS63

1797 $10, Large Eagle, PCGS AU58 - $43,500.00

This eye-appealing, premium quality early 1797 Eagle shows bright mint luster shimmering within its devices. The strike is bold, especially in the central portion of the coin on both sides. We see full hair details on Liberty and sharp details on the shield and eagle. The dentils are strong on both sides as well. The surfaces are clean for the grade with no distractions worthy of individual mention. Sufficient separation in the lines of Liberty’s hair and drapery exists to warrant the grade, which could have even been a few points higher on this outstanding piece.

Please contact me by email or telephone 1-800-624-1870 to reserve this great coin.

The Type 1 reverse shows a rather scrawny eagle standing on a branch holding a wreath in its mouth as it looks right. For some, the eagle looks like a chicken with oversized wings. In an arc around the eagle are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

The Type 2 reverse, issued in 1797, shows a heraldic eagle. However, Scot mixed up the positions of the arrows and olive branch. The arrows held in the wrong claw signify defiant militarism. Either Scot made an error copying the image of the Great Seal, or he deliberately changed the symbolism in keeping with very warlike stance. Considering that the United States at this time was engaged in a naval war with France (the undeclared Franco-American War of 1798 to 1800, which took place of the East coast of North America and the Caribbean and resulted in the end of French privateer attacks on U.S. shipping), the latter is probably more likely. The French would be especially sensitive to a message within the heraldry, and the young United States was brash in that they had just defeated the super power, England in gaining independence. In the field above the eagle are thirteen stars and above them, six (or seven) clouds. A banner from wing to wing has the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.The early eagle coins have no denomination because gold was valued by its weight and fineness as was the European coinage of the time. As seen on contemporary Large Cents, dentils are at the edge of both the obverse and reverse of these coins. Thomas Jefferson chose Robert Scot to be the first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793. Scot was born in 1744. It is uncertain if he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland or in England. He was trained as a watchmaker in England and learned engraving afterwards. He moved to the United States in 1777, where he worked as an engraver of plates, bills of exchange, and office scales. During the Revolution, he was an engraver of paper money.

In 1780 he was made the State Engraver of Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia the next year. He was appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793 by David Rittenhouse, Mint Director. His salary in 1795 was 1,200 per year. The Mint Director received only $800 dollars per year more. Scot’s ability to make dies was limited, and he was advanced in years with failing eyesight. His work was somewhat less than that done in Europe at the time, and Scot was criticized for its poor quality. Despite these limitations, he was responsible for designs of most of America’s first coins. These include the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust motifs used on early sliver coins, and the gold quarter eagle, half eagle and eagle. Scot also designed the 1794-1797 half cent, the 1800-1808 draped bust half cent, and the Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. Scot died on November 1, 1823 and was succeeded by William Kneass as Chief Engraver.

Record keeping in the Mint’s early years was fairly inaccurate. At the end of the eighteenth century Philadelphia had recovered from the British occupation and Revolutionary War. It was the second largest city in the English-speaking world, but it could do nothing to protect its citizens from the mosquito-borne epidemic of yellow fever. Its wealthy citizens went to the countryside to escape, and the poor grimly waited their fate. Of course these annual epidemics caused havoc with all manufacturing that required continuity, such as a coinage sequence. In addition to yellow fever, chaos at the Mint was also caused by chronic bullion shortages, coin dies that would wear out and had to be re-engraved because they were not taken out of production until they failed completely, and a Chief Engraver, Robert Scot, who was in his seventies and had failing eyesight. It is remarkable that any coinage of note was produced under these conditions and that some of those wonderful pieces survive today.


Very Truly Yours,

Tom Pilitowski
Toll Free:
Email: TomPilitowski@yahoo.com

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