Eagles of 1795, the second gold denomination struck by the Mint, are identical to half eagles of 1795. Liberty faces right, wearing a soft cap with her hair flowing to her shoulder. Above her and to the right is LIBERTY with the date at the bottom. Along the left edge are 10 stars, and five stars are aligned along the right edge. The reverse shows an eagle, wings spread, standing on a palm branch with an olive branch wreath held in its beak. Around the central device is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. There are no records to tell us the origins of the obverse design. It is believed that designer Robert Scot took the image from a Roman-style Hellenistic Greek goddess. The reverse design is known to be an adaptation of a Roman onyx cameo and was criticized from the beginning for having a “scrawny” eagle. It is interesting to note the lack of a denomination on the coin. In early America, coins were accepted by weight and purity, not the mere printing on the piece. If a coin was worn through use, it was discounted to reflect the loss of metal. A denomination was simply unnecessary.
The 15 obverse stars represent the 15 states then making up the United States of America. When Tennessee joined the Union, the number of stars on the obverse was raised to 16. It soon became apparent that adding stars each time a new state was formed would become untenable. Part of the problem was having enough space on the coin to keep adding an unknown number of stars. Also, due to a rapid addition of states, once a coin went through the design to production cycle, the number of stars could easily be wrong by the time the coin was issued. It was decided in 1798 to keep the number of stars on the obverse at 13 in honor of the 13 original colonies.
Most eagles minted were not used in everyday commerce; they sat in bank vaults as reserves or were used to satisfy international debts. Like their domestic counterparts, those exported also sat in bank vaults. Confirmation on this is easily found in the population reports of the Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. As of this writing, these two leading grading services have certified 562 of this Type in all grades. Of that total more than 70% grade About Uncirculated (AU) or better. An AU coin is one with a very slight amount of wear. These coins had found little use.
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