Douglas Winter Numismatics, a Portland Oregon firm specializing in choice and rare United States gold coinage, recently sold an outstanding 1796 Eagle graded AU58 by PCGS and approved. The price was in excess of $100,000.
The 1796 is one of three ten-dollar-gold pieces struck between 1795 and 1797 employing Robert Scot’s Capped Bust Right design with the Small Eagle reverse. The mintage for the entire type is just a reported 13,344 coins, and an estimated 5% of these have survived.
The original mintage figure of the 1796 is traditionally believed to be 4,146 coins, but recent research indicates the actual number may be as low as 3,500. There are an estimated 125-175 known and this date is quite rare in properly graded Choice About Uncirculated (i.e., AU55 and finer). In Uncirculated, the 1796 eagle is very rare with likely no more than six or seven indisputably Mint State pieces extant. The finest graded are a pair of MS63s at PCGS, and the best offered in the last decade was the Pogue: 2093 coin graded MS62+ which brought $411,250 when sold by Stack’s Bowers in September 2015.
This specific coin is fresh to the market and it was obtained by DWN as part of a privately-conducted bid sale held at the 2019 FUN show. It represents an early die state of the BD-1 variety (the only one known for the year) with a less developed crack than normal seen on the obverse and uncommon reflectively of the surfaces. What is most impressive about this coin is the quality of its surfaces. Many 1796 eagles were made using inferior quality planchets and this results in pock-marked surfaces which can severely impact the overall eye appeal. The 1796 is considerably harder to locate with good eye appeal than its counterpart the 1795; see below for more information regarding this.
PCGS has graded 17 examples of this date in AU58 with 11 finer, but these numbers appear to be significantly inflated by resubmissions. There have been just five auction records for this date in AU58 since December 2005, and the most recent APR is Heritage 2/18: 4195 which brought a record-setting $138,000. CAC has approved just four in AU58 with but a single coin higher: MS62.
It is interesting to compare this date to the 1795. Most knowledgeable specialists consider the 1796 to be around three times rarer in terms of total known. The current PCGS population for the 1795 is 27 in AU58 with 43 finer; CAC has approved three in AU58 with eight finer. If available, a nice 1795 in PCGS/CAC AU58 would likely bring in excess of $100,000. However, one must remember that the 1795 is popular as a first-year-of-issue and its level of demand is greater than its counterpart the 1796. That said, it seems like nice 1796 eagles are undervalued when compared to the 1795.
Douglas Winter Numismatics buys and sells choice and rare early United States gold and is currently working with numerous collectors on specialized date and type sets of these issues. For more information, please contact Doug Winter by phone at (214) 675-9897 or via email at email@example.com.