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Obverse of 1795 Half Eagle - Miller 2     Reverse of 1795 Half Eagle - Miller 2


Variety equivalents:
Breen 1-B, Breen 6412

Rarity 4 (Very Scarce)

The obverse of this variety was also used on:
1795 Miller 1  
1795 Miller 3

This was the only use of the reverse die.

Attribution guide:
Obverse: all letters of LIBERTY are recut.  The Y of LIBERTY crowds and touches the adjacent star; the tops of the T and the Y are on the same level (compare with Obverse 4, which shows the Y higher than the T).

Reverse: four berries on the wreath.

Images courtesy of Bowers and Merena

Significant examples:
NGC MS-65.  B&M 05/2004:407, $299,000.  Incorrectly called Breen 1-A.
1795 Breen-1A, Breen Encyclopedia 6413. Small Eagle. MS-65 (NGC). Housed in an older generation NGC holder. This is a splendid gem specimen of the first dated half eagle produced at the Philadelphia Mint. The surfaces are full lustrous with reflective, prooflike fields. Brilliant yellow gold with a highly appealing appearance. Every design element is intricately and fully detailed. The only imperfections noted on either side appear to be minute flaws from the original planchet, and not abrasions received in later years. While "only" graded MS-65, we find nothing to suggest a coin that is less than perfect, not only for its aesthetic appeal but for its physical qualities as well.  The first United States gold coins produced were these half eagles with the first examples delivered from the coiner on July 31, 1795. On this date, delivery warrant number 1 for gold coins consisted of 744 examples. As the very first deposit of gold did not occur until July 21, 1795, a window of 11 days exists for the actual coinage of these first half eagles. Eight additional deliveries took place during the next two months with a final mintage of 8,707 half eagles for the year. There are 12 known die varieties of the 1795 Small Eagle coinage. This was certainly not the entire mintage of 1795 Small Eagle half eagles, however. Five deliveries of half eagles were also recorded for 1796, totaling 6,196. Given the rarity of half eagles bearing the 1796 date (actually 1796/5), the fact that only one die variety has ever been identified, and that 1795 half eagles appear so much more frequently, it is strongly believed that most of the 1796 mintage was actually dated 1795. Auction data suggests that 1795 half eagles appear six times as often as those of 1796. Walter Breen might have suggested that the 1796 half eagle deliveries in June, July, and September were all coins dated 1795 and that only the two deliveries of December 1796 consisted of coins dated 1796. This would provide net mintages of 12,106 examples dated 1795 and 2,797 coins dated 1796. While not exact, these figures are close enough to be supported by the auction data.  Walter Breen labeled this die variety as his 1-A combination, representing his belief that these were the very first struck. More recently, die state evidence suggests that another variety, Breen 2-C was possibly the first struck. It is also possible that the first STATES over STATED variety, Breen 3-D was first. The two varieties from this blundered reverse die, Breen 3-D and 4-D, are not die-linked to any other group of marriages, thus, cannot easily be placed in the exact order of production. Essentially, despite significant research in the early gold issues over the last several years, we still do not know with certainty which variety was the very first gold coinage issued from the Mint.  There is strong evidence that designs for this 1795 half eagle were prepared by Robert Scot, probably in May, in anticipation that coinage would soon begin. In fact, R.W. Julian long ago established this exact scenario. The design was doubtless the result of the artist's interpretation of the law as established in the Mint Act of 1792. We can only imagine that the Mint employees and officers must have felt quite a sense of pride the day they struck the first gold coins. As we look at this example today, over 200 years later, and consider its brilliant lustre and excellent aesthetic appeal, we can easily imagine being at the Mint on July 31, 1795.  Four recent auction appearances of gem quality 1795 Small Eagle half eagles are all different from this coin. In March 2001, Superior sold a PCGS MS-65. In March 2000, Superior sold an NGC MS-65. In September 1999, Goldberg Coins sold an NGC MS-65. The Superior March 2000 specimen was earlier offered by our firm in August 1998."

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"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

"United States Half Eagle Gold Coins 1795 to 1834" by Robert W. Miller, Sr.