HALF EAGLE -
15 Obverse Stars, Normal Date
unlisted in Miller, unlisted in Breen
PCGS No: None
The only known example of this variety resides in the National
Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Despite being
listed in Cory Gillilland's Smithsonian Sylloge (as No. 36, where it was
listed incorrectly as a possible overdate), this unique variety was known
only to certain gold coin specialists until it was brought to our
attention in December 2001 by numismatic researcher Saul Teichman.
This was the only use of the
obverse die. This is a completely new obverse die, showing no trace
of an overdate and unlisted in any numismatic reference book.
The reverse die of this
variety was also used on the 1797/5 Half Eagle with 15 Obverse Stars.
Besides being unique, this
variety may prove to be important for another reason. Previously,
researchers believed that the transition from the Small (or Plain) Eagle
reverse design to the Eagle and Shield (Heraldic) reverse design took
place in 1798, and that all 1795, 1796, and 1797 Half Eagles with the
latter reverse were back-dated issues struck in 1798. However, this
variety raises the possibility that the transitional year was, instead,
1797. This would mean that the 1797 Half Eagles with 15 and 16
Obverse Stars and Heraldic Eagle Reverses were struck in 1797 towards the
end of the coinage run for that year and that the only back-dated issues
are the 1795 and 1797/5 Half Eagles with Heraldic Eagle Reverses.
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution,
National Numismatic Collection, Douglas Mudd
Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial
Coins" by Walter Breen
States Half Eagle Gold Coins 1795 to 1834" by Robert W. Miller,