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Obverse of 1797 Eagle - Plain Eagle Reverse     Reverse of 1797 Eagle - Plain Eagle Reverse

Plain Eagle on Reverse

PCGS No: 8555


Circulation strikes: 3,615
Proofs: 0

Designer: Robert Scot

Diameter: 33 millimeters

Metal content:
Gold - 91.7%
Copper and other - 8.3% 

Weight: 270 grains (17.50 grams)

Edge: Reeded

Mintmark: None (all examples of this date and type were struck at Philadelphia, PA)

Ten Dollar Gold coins (or "Eagles") were produced by the U.S. Mint beginning in 1795.  Initially, the coins bore fifteen stars, one for each of the United States (Vermont and Kentucky had been admitted to the original thirteen).  In 1796, the number of stars rose to sixteen following the admission of Tennessee into the Union.   Unfortunately, the increased number of stars forced unusual demands on the engravers; i.e. how to fit the stars neatly into the dies.  A neat arrangement of 8 stars on the left and 8 stars on the right appeared on the 1796 Eagle, made possible by moving the word "LIBERTY" farther to the left over and above Miss Liberty's turban.  However, in 1797, the engravers moved the word LIBERTY back to its original position (in front of the cap, as seen above), leaving insufficient space on the right side of the coin for eight stars.  On this variety in particular, we see an unusual (and unique) arrangement of twelve stars crowded on the left side and only four on the right!  Many examples of this variety exhibit a die crack on the obverse from the edge just beyond the sixteenth star.  It is entirely possible that this unusual arrangement occurred when the engraver noticed the die beginning to crack right where he wanted to place his final star, forcing him to relocate it just to the left of the date.  In 1798, the Mint decided to revert back to 13 stars and, in 1799, settled finally on an arrangement of 8 stars on the left side and 5 on the right.

The finest "Small Eagle" example graded by PCGS is a single MS-62.

Images courtesy of Superior Stamp & Coin

Significant examples:
PCGS AU-55 (illustrated above).  From Superior Stamp & Coin's "Pre-Long Beach Sale", February 7-8, 2000, Lot 1175, sold for $42,550.00

Recent appearances:

Taraszka 1797-1A - Rare

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"United States Ten Dollar Gold Eagles 1795-1804" by Anthony J. Taraszka

"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen

"The PCGS Population Report, July 2003" by The Professional Coin Grading Service