There are a few relatively unknown but numismatically significant varieties of early United States gold coinage that I think are likely to be included in comprehensive collections of these issues as they become more popular with collectors. Here are a few of the "secret" varieties that I would suggest collectors be on the lookout for. 1798 Close Date and Wide Date Quarter Eagles. Despite this date's low mintage figure, it remains undervalued in comparsion to the other 18th century quarter eagles. There are two distinct varieties known. The more avilable and better known of the two is the Wide Date (BD-2) on which the four digits in the date are quite widely spaced. An easy way to distinguish this variety is by the presence of five berries on the reverse. There are an estimated four to five dozen known in all grades.
The "secret" variety for this year is the Close Date. This variety has only four berries on the reverse. It is very rare in all grades with around two dozen or so known.
1825 Close Fraction and Distant Fraction Quarter Eagles. There are not many die varieties in the short-lived Capped Bust Large Size type of 1821-1827 but there are actually three varieties for the 1825.
Two of the varieties show a distant fraction on the reverse with the numerals relatively far from the fraction bar. The more common (BD-2) has a 5 in the date that leans far to the left and which is placed below the 2. The rarer variety (BD-1) and the 5 more upright and even with the 2. There are as many as 90-100 known of the former while the latter remains very rare and apears to have fewer than ten accounted for.
The third variety of 1825 quarter eagle (BD-3) has the same reverse as seen on the 1826 quarter eagle with a very close fraction where the numerals touch the fraction bar. It is also very rare, although not as much so as BD-1. I would estimate that around a dozen exist.
In the half eagle series, there are many interesting "secret" varieties; enough so that I am only going to mention a few here.
1795 Small Eagle Half Eagles. There are no less than dozen varieties of 1795 Small Eagle half eagles known. To me, the most interesting are the blundered reverse with the the final S in STATES erroneously punched over a D. There are two die varieties known that have this impressive reverse.
The first variety, BD-5, is recognizable by the left side of the 1 in the date touching the curl. It is extremely rare with fewer than ten known. The second variety, BD-6, has the date free of the curl. This is a much more available coin with as many as 75-90 pieces known. The S/D in STATES half eagles do not generally sell for a premium but they have a very high "coolness" factor due to the spectacular blunder on the reverse that is easily visible to the naked eye.
1798 Half Eagles. The 1798 Large Eagle half eagles are fertile ground for variety collectors. There are coins with a Small or "Normal" 8 in the date as well as those with a Large 8. The Large 8 coins exist with thirteen and fourteen stars on the reverse.
The "secret" variety is the 1798 Large 8 with fourteen reverse stars. While this variety already sells for a premium over the more common Large 8 with thirteen stars, what makes it interesting is that there is only one die variety known (BD-3). Only three dozen or so exist in all grades and the importance of this coin as a distinct naked-eye variety is only now being understood by specialists.
1799 Half Eagles. This is another very fertile year for variety collectors with an amazing nine varieties known. Seven of these have small reverse stars while two have large stars on the reverse.
The "secret" variety for 1799 half eagles is the large reverse stars. There are two die varieties known. The first, BD-5, is easy to recognize by the last 9 being too high and recut to the right. There are two to three dozen known. The second, BD-8, has the last 9 even with the first and there is no recutting. This variety is slightly rarer overall and it appears to be extremely rare in high grades.
There are a number of varieties in the half eagle series produced from 1800 through 1807 but these tend not to generate as much collector interest. In a future blog, I will be discussing the ones that have the greatest appeal to me.