David Akers (1975/88): Although not particularly scarce by Half Eagle standards, the 1795 Small Eagle is nevertheless a relatively high priced coin due to its status as the first U.S. gold coin and its popularity as a type coin. It is much more common than the other dates of this type and is fairly obtainable in AU-Unc. condition. Gems, that is MS-65 or better coins, are rare but still occasionally available. Proof-like surfaces are the norm rather than the exception but no true proofs exist. There are, however, several first strike specimens that have the characteristics of "presentation" pieces.
One interesting variety exists with the second S in STATES over the letter D. This variety, although more rare than the varieteies with the plain S, does not generally command a premium.
Ron Guth: Harry Bass and John Dannreuther identified 12 different die varieties of the 1795 Small Eagle $5 gold piece, all of which are scarce, and some of which are exceedingly rare. Some examples show adjustment marks (parallel file marks caused by filing the planchet to bring the weight down to standard); these are considered mint-caused defects that affect the value of the coin only minimally (actual scratches can have a major, detrimental effect on value depending on quantity and severity).
Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Early U.S. Gold Coin Varieties" by John W. Dannreuther and Harry W. Bass, Jr.
"United States Half Eagle Gold Coins 1795 to 1834" by Robert W. Miller, Sr.
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen
Goldbergs 9/1999:1733, $207,000 (plate-matched to the following) - Stack's 6/2008:2052, $586,500
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