1798 Large Eagle Silver Draped Bust Dollar NGC VF30

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1798 Large Eagle Silver Draped Bust Dollar NGC VF30

History of the Draped Bust, Large Eagle (1798-1804): (From NGC Coin Explorer)

Throughout the 1790s heads continued to roll off the guillotines of France as that country struggled to affirm the democratic principles it had first espoused in 1789. Some Americans watched nervously from across the Atlantic and wondered if the violence of the mob would spread to this country. But America’s democratic principles were firmly established, as it had already undergone the national trauma of revolution, war and two changes of government since 1776. By 1798 democracy in America was beginning to come of age.

This maturity of the United States was evident in the late 1790s not only by America’s refusal to be pulled into the war between England and France; it can also be seen in the changes in the nation’s unit of currency, the dollar. The design modifications of 1798 were actually grounded in events that began three years before.

When a new and improved coin press arrived at the Mint in Philadelphia in the spring of 1795, it made improvements possible both in the quantity of coins produced as well as their quality. The new press was able to properly stamp out the large sized dollar coins and include all the design details in the finished product.

The Draped Bust dollar obverse was designed by noted artist Gilbert Stuart in an attempt to elevate U.S. coinage designs to “world class” stature. This design marked a maturing of the “young” Liberty of the preceding Flowing Hair design to a more “matronly” concept of the emblematic national symbol. In 1798 the young hatchling eagle seen on the reverse of the earlier dollar was replaced with an older and more naturalistic eagle, one that was more in keeping with heraldic iconography.

One oversight in the iconography of the Heraldic Eagle reverse, though, was in the placement of the arrows in the eagle’s right claw—the more honorable placement in heraldry—leaving the olive branch in the left or less honorable claw. This more warlike placement of the arrows was repeated on all heraldic eagle coins of the period.

The Draped Bust design changes:

During the six years that Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle dollars were struck 1,153,709 coins were produced, all in the Philadelphia mint. There are dozens of die varieties, most involving only a minute difference in the placement of the stars, numerals, letters or other design elements.

But there are several important design changes in the series that are of interest to a wide range of collectors. On 1798 dollars there are two different patterns of stars on the reverse above the eagle’s head. The earlier configuration, known as the “cross pattern” was a modification of The Great Seal of the United States, with the stars arranged in two triangular groups of six joined by a single star in the middle.

The later design was much simpler. Known as the “arc pattern,” it had two parallel rows of stars: the top row had six, the second row five stars, followed by one star on either side of the eagle’s head. No one knows exactly why the star patterns were changed, but the earlier “cross pattern” configuration is generally the scarcer of the two.

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