$10 Draped Bust Gold Eagle
$10 Draped Bust Gold Eagle
Small Eagle Variety - When the mint began striking coins in 1793, they could only strike copper coins due to security and bonding concerns. They were unable to strike ANY gold coins until 1795. The Chief Engraver of the US Mint, Robert Scot, designed the obverse of the coin to display Miss Liberty, facing right, wearing a Turban-type hat. Above her is the legend “LIBERTY” and there are 10 five-pointed stars behind and five five-pointed stars in front of the face. The date is below the bust.
The reverse depicts a thin eagle holding an olive wreath in its beak. Its head is raised up. Wings are outstretched put pointing downward. An olive branch is within its talons and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” surmounts the eagle around the periphery.
The first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, Robert Scot, created all three of the designs for the first US $10.00 Gold Eagles – one obverse design and two reverse designs, a small eagle, and a heraldic eagle. All three gold coin denominations used these same designs. Scott heard the public and US Mint criticisms of his small eagle design (called a “Scrawny Eagle”) and set about to remedy the critique.
He modeled the new eagle after the design on the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle, being the central vignette, was much more majestic than on his small eagle design. It more gloriously represented the new nation. These Small Eagle coins were struck from 1795 to 1804.
Large Eagle Variety - Scott did not modify the obverse design from his first design. He kept Miss Liberty wearing a turban-like hat, facing to her right. Above her, on the periphery, was the word “LIBERTY” and there were five six-pointed stars to the right and eight six-pointed stars to the left. The date is under Miss Liberty. The new Heraldic Eagle design had the eagle facing left, with a scroll in her mouth on which was inscribed “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Surrounding the eagle’s head were 13 six-pointed stars. Above the stars was a bank of clouds. Around the periphery of the coin was “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” No denomination was started on these early gold coins and Scott’s modified eagle was much more successful and the design received praise instead of scorn.
So, during the first year of the new design – 1797 – the Philadelphia Mint struck 10,940 coins. This variety was struck from 1797 through 1804. There was a total of 3,757 eagles dated 1804 that were struck in that year. They are called “Crosslet 4” coins because they have short vertical extensions of the cross-stroke at the end. Although over 3,700 coins were minted, very few are known to exist today.
In 1834, the Government intended to present a set of then-current US coins to four Asian rulers with whom they hoped to open trade relations. Although this was 30 years later, neither a $10 Gold coin nor a Silver Dollar had been struck since 1804. The US Mint Director was pressured to strike 1804-dated $10 gold eagles and silver dollars specifically for these sets. Four of each of these two coins were struck and the sets were completed and encased in wood, leather and the four coins struck for these four sets were all of the “Plain 4” variety with no Crosslet and they were struck in Proof condition.
Two sets were presented to the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. But the two remaining sets were never presented as the US diplomat died of disease. The existence of all four sets is known today, with three in private hands and the fourth in a museum.