FULL TALON SUSAN B. ANTHONY DOLLARS
Below is an article on "Full Talon" Susan B. Anthony Dollars written in January 2006 exclusively for SmallDollars.com. Even though the Susan B. Anthony Dollar has been around for more than a quarter century, collecting full talon specimens has not been widely recognized or even discussed much. In fact, this is the first article on the subject to appear anywhere. I believe "Full Talon" SBA's deserve a respected place in numismatics right up there with "Full Step" Jefferson Nickels, "Full Band" Mercury Dimes, etc. With this "new" collectible in its infancy, now may be the time to start collecting them.
WHAT ARE FULL TALONS?
Article by Robert Ezerman and
David R. Golan
"Full Talons" (FT) is a descriptive designation (known as a "superlative" or "attribution") which is used to recognize Susan B. Anthony dollar coins (SBA's) whose reverse-side eagle has full talons.
The reverse of the SBA is the same as its predecessor, the Eisenhower dollar. The design commemorates the landing on the moon by the "Eagle" spacecraft in July, 1969. (Who can forget Neil Armstrong's famous words, "The Eagle has landed"?)
This reverse design shows an eagle descending onto the moon with the earth in the background over its right wing, the eagle's six talons firmly clutching an olive branch, a universal symbol of peace. The symbolism is powerful, but often, remarkably often, the talons are poorly defined. Pictured is the typical range of talon definition seen on SBA's. (SEE PHOTOS BELOW)
Since the recognition of Full Talons is quite new, there is no recognized or official definition. With simplicity in mind, a good start might be:
"Full Talon SBA's show six fully separated talons".
Currently, none of the
Third Party Graders (TPG) is designating SBA's that
exhibit full talons. They will each have to decide
whether to adopt the FT superlative and how to define it.
- HOW MANY SBA'S HAVE FULL TALONS? -
The above definition captures about 30% of all SBA's . A tighter definition that stipulated "full and rounded talons" would capture maybe 20% of SBA's while an even tighter definition that demanded "full anatomic accuracy including some skin folds" would capture about 5% or less.
So, roughly 5% of SBA's
exhibit talons that have full and complete definition. At
the other end of the spectrum of talon definition, about
5% of SBA's have blobs for talons and olive branch. The
90% in between fall into a Bell Curve that shifts
significantly with differing years and mints. For
example, the 1980-S SBA seldom shows" six fully
separated talons" while the 1979-P often does
- FULL TALONS AND HIGH-GRADE SBA'S -
While finding an SBA with Full Talons is not particularly difficult, the combination of high-grade (MS66-68) and FT can be quite elusive. David R. Golan, the current owner of the #1 PCGS Registry Set of Mint State SBA's, spent more than six years putting together his all FT set.
It is noteworthy that
higher-grade TPG-certified SBA's show the same spectrum
of talon definition (from blob to FT) that raw SBA's
show. You will see holdered SBA's in MS66 and MS67 that
have blobs for talons. Clearly the graders have not been
aware of the talon issue or pay no attention to talon
- FULL TALONS AND "SMS" 1999 SBA's -
The 1999 SBA's were released both as regular circulation strikes and in Special Mint Sets (SMS) that contain a 1999-P and a 1999-D SBA. These SMS SBA's were double struck from dies that had a proof-like polish so most have a chrome-like finish that is unique in the series.
Many SMS SBA's have full and rounded anatomic talons with visible skin folds, just as all SBA proofs do. Regular issue 1999 SBA's do not exhibit this greater incidence of increased talon definition.
As one would expect, most high-grade holdered 1999-D and 1999-P SBA's come from SMS sets. Even SMS SBA's, however, can have poor talon definition.
Unlike some earlier SMS
coins in other denominations, the SBA SMS dollars have
the same composition and weight as regular 1999 SBA's so
there is, as of now, no sure test to distinguish SMS from
- OPPORTUNITY STRIKES! -
If and when TPGs attribute FT, the value of SBA's that have full talons should increase substantially, especially high-grade examples. Consider the premiums granted Full Steps (FS) Jeffersons, Full Head (FH) Standing Liberty Quarters, and Full Bell Line (FBL) Franklins.
Also, if the TPGs find a
reliable way to distinguish SMS 1999 SBA's from regular
1999 SBA's, high-grade and FT regular SBA's will be
WHEN WILL TPGS ATTRIBUTE FULL TALONS?
PCGS, NGC, ANACS AND ICG
all have a similar "wait and see" attitude. If
SBA collectors and submitters begin to actively look for
and demand this attribution, the TPGs will respond. They
will not, however, "lead the pack".
- "THE BOTTOM LINE" FOR THE SBA COLLECTOR -
You have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of the Full Talon concept before it is generally recognized. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt before FT becomes widely known and more highly prized and priced.
You might also want to look for better examples of regular release 1999 SBA's, especially those with FT, and put them away.
But be warned: once you develop an eye for FT SBA's, you will never be happy with blob foot examples!
SHOWING A PROGRESSION OF THE EAGLE'S
TALONS AS SEEN ON SUSAN B. ANTHONY DOLLARS FROM
AN UNDEFINED "BLOB" TO FULLY DEFINED TALONS
(ALL COINS SHOWN ARE GRADED MINT STATE 64 OR BETTER)
Photos property of and © Copyrighted by Robert Ezerman