Early Half Eagle.
This rare, mint state early date 1799 Half Eagle shows
no wear, as expected for a mint state coin. The surfaces
are virtually mark-free and original. Mint luster
is seen within the devices. The dentils are strong
on both sides of the coin. An excellent die crack
is seen on the reverse starting from the edge between
the S and O and continuing through the clouds and
stars. Two more are seen on the left field. These
cracks show that the die was starting to age and had
been reused a great deal. Light adjustment marks are
seen across stars 1 and 2 adding historical interest
to the coin.
The obverse design
shows Liberty facing right. Below her is the date
which is off center to the left. Between the date
and the word LIBERTY on the left side of the coin
are eight stars. Six stars follow LIBERTY down to
the bust. Liberty wears a large, soft cap. Her hair
flows down and also shows on her forehead. The design
was probably taken from a Roman engraving of a Greek
goddess. Liberty’s cap was certainly not a Phrygian
or liberty cap. The liberty cap, emblematic of freedom,
was worn by freed slaves and freed gladiators in Roman
times. It was a close fitting cap used to cover a
shorn head, which was one of the way slaves were identified.
The oversized cap worn by Liberty has been called
a turban, and the design has been called the Turban
Head because of it.
The cap is actually
a stylized Phrygian cap with a long lock of hair that
wraps unnaturally around it, creating the false impression
of a turban. The reverse shows a heraldic eagle. However,
Scott mixed up the positions of the arrows and olive
branch. The arrows held in the wrong claw signify
defiant militarism. Either Scott made an error copying
the image of the Great Seal, or he deliberately changed
the symbolism perhaps because the United States had
been engaged with France in an undeclared naval war
over international shipping and this departure from
political correctness was a warning to France and
others about the sovereignty of America. In the field
above the eagle are thirteen stars and above them,
seven clouds. A banner from wing to wing has the motto
E PLURIBUS UNUM.
The early half 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. Scott was
born in 1744 in Edinburgh, Scotland or England. (Documentary
evidence is lacking as to where he was born.) 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. He was responsible
for designs of most of America’s first coins.
These include the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust
motifs used on the early silver 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.
The quantity of coins
minted for a denomination in those days depended on
the amount of gold that was deposited at the Mint.
Since small amounts of gold were received in 1799,
only 7,451 half eagles were minted. All coins were
struck at the Mint in Philadelphia, which was the
only coinage facility in the country at the time.
The NGC insert indicates
that the coin is from the American Independence Collection,
a newly created registry for early U.S. gold coins.
According to an NGC Vice President, the early gold
coins in this set, “… are definitely among
the most difficult to complete. To attempt them is
to undertake a long and serious pursuit. This underscores
the achievement of the American Independence collection,
which consists of high-grade and attractive examples
of these challenging coins. As it continues to grow,
it should be a milestone Registry collection.”
There are two varieties
of the 1799 half eagle, one has Large Reverse Stars
and the other, the present coin, has Small Stars.
In its population report, NGC shows 1 1799 Small Reverse
Stars half eagle in MS61 with 2 better.
year of issue for the gold dollar, struck at the Dahlonega
Mint. The present coin is a blazing and lustrous example
of this popular issue among southern-gold specialists.
The Dahlonega Mint only struck gold coins between 1838
and 1861, after which it was seized by the confederate
army. The smallest town that ever struck federal US
coins, Dahlonega is now a small city in Georgia with
a population of 3,800 people. Together with the Charlotte
and New Orleans Mints, these southern Mints have always
attracted gold specialists for their romance and history.
were mostly small, as it depended on the amount of gold
that was deposited at the Mint. Of the gold dollar,
examples were struck continuously until the last year
of operation in 1861. The first year had a total mintage
of 21,588 coins, of which approximately 35 to 50 remain
in uncirculated condition. While this is a low number,
this makes it one of the most common Dahlonega issues
collecting gold dollars by date is a task not taken
by many, presumably because of their size, this is also
the only open wreath issue from the Dahlonega Mint.
As a result, anyone who is building a southern-gold
type set needs an example of this issue, which are always
present piece, graded by NGC as MS-63, is of premium
quality for the grade. A very strong strike, this must
be one, if not the boldly pressed example of this issue.
Lustrous, untoned surfaces show no major distractions
along with full luster. Some blemishes in the fields,
in particular the left obverse field, show that account
for the grade. This coin represents a rare opportunity
to acquire an uncirculated gold coin from this beloved