Gold Coins : Draped Bust $10 : Type 1, Small Eagle

Obverse of 1795 $10 Eagle Reverse of 1795 $10 Eagle

Ron Guth: The first Ten Dollar gold pieces (or "Eagles") ever produced in America featured a bust of Liberty facing right and wearing a turban-shaped hat.  One long lock of Liberty's hair wraps up and around the turban in a somewhat odd arrangement.  The reverse features an eagle perched atop oa palm frond, holding a wreath in its beak.  The eagle on this type is smaller than the eagle on the subsequent Heraldic Eagle design, hence it is known as the "Small Eagle" reverse. Mintages for this type are very low, due partly to the scarcity of gold deposits during the early years of the Mint and also because depositors favored the smaller, more convenient Half Eagle.

"Eagles" of this type were issued in 1795, 1796 and 1797; none were issued in 1798.  Major varieties include the 1795 13 Leaves (in branch) and 1795 9 leaves.  The number of stars on the obverse ranges from 15 on the 1795 to 16 on the 1796 and 1797 (in different arrangements).

This is one of the rarest types of U.S. coins.  PCGS has certified only 307 examples of the entire type (as of June 2011), including 62 Mint State examples.  The most "common" date of this type is the 1795 13 Leaves.  Very few Mint State examples are known above MS-63 (all of those are 1795 13 Leaves).  The finest example certified by PCGS is a single MS-66 1795 13 Leaves.