LIBERTY HEAD (NO
MOTTO ON REVERSE) FIVE DOLLARS OR HALF EAGLE (1839-1866)
LIBERTY HEAD (NO MOTTO ON REVERSE) FIVE DOLLARS OR HALF EAGLE:
When Mint Engraver William
Kneass was unable to resume his duties after a debilitating
stroke, Christian Gobrecht was asked to do his work, which
included making a new half eagle that would be uniform with
the eagle. The Liberty Head (No Motto on Reverse) half eagle
was minted from 1839 to 1866.
Gobrecht’s design for the Liberty
Head (No Motto on Reverse) half eagle shows a left facing
profile of Liberty wearing a LIBERTY inscribed coronet.
Her hair is tied in the back and there are two loose curls
that hang down her neck. Around the head are thirteen six-pointed
stars, and the date is below the truncation. At the periphery
of the coin are dentils. The Liberty Head (No Motto on Reverse)
half eagle coin also has a reeded edge. The reverse of the
Liberty Head (No Motto on Reverse) half eagle coin shows
a heraldic eagle similar to the one on the Classic Head
eagle. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds
the eagle, except for its wing tips, in an arc. The denomination
is below, separated with dots, and written as FIVE D.
In the 1860’s the Liberty Head (No
Motto on Reverse) half eagle was subjected to an unusual
form of counterfeiting. Genuine gold coins were sawed in
half edgewise and the gold was removed from the interiors.
It was replaced by platinum discs of corresponding weight.
A new edge was added to hide the change. The coins rang
well, and had the proper weight and color. Although many
solutions were proposed, the problem resolved itself when
the market price of platinum exceeded that of gold. From
time to time these altered coins appear. They are valuable
today for their bullion content and, for some, as interesting
The new variety of the half eagle was supposed
to be minted in 1866 adding the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. However,
9,000 1866-S Liberty Head (No Motto on Reverse) half eagle
coins were struck. Later in the year 34,920 1866-S Liberty
Head (Motto on Reverse) half eagle coins were minted in
San Francisco. Evidently the new dies were shipped to the
mint in California, but they did not arrive before the old
dies were used to make the No Motto coins.
Mintages of the Liberty Head (No Motto
on Reverse) half eagle range from a high of 688,084 in 1861
to a tiny mintage of 268. In 1854, there was a shortage
of acids needed to separate the silver from gold at the
San Francisco Mint; consequently, the output was severely
limited. The 1854-S half eagle is so rare that NGC has certified
only one coin and PCGS has none. Because of the rarity of
this coin, it is virtually impossible to complete a full
date and mint set of Liberty Head (No Motto on Reverse)
half eagle coins. The next lowest mintage is the 1865 with
a mintage of 1,270. Both grading services show 48 coins
certified for 1865, which does not account for resubmissions
with Small and Large letters on the reverse. Small Letters
are scarce. Only 12 certified in Mint State. Finest
are 2 MS66s. Only 1 proof has been certified in PF64.
It is a Small Letters variety.
with Small and Large Dates. The Small Date is rarer
with less than 100 known. Only 7 Small Dates are certified
in Mint State. The finest is a single MS63+. 17 Large
Dates are certified in Mint State. The finest is a single
with Small and Large Dates. The Large Date is rarer
with less than 100 known. Only 2 have been certified
in Mint State both MS61. 16 Small Dates are certified
in Mint State. The finest are 8 in MS62.
found in VF to XF condition. One reverse variety has
an obvious D/D mintmark. The normal mintmark variety
is rarer with only 9 certified in Mint State. The finest
are 2 in MS62. The D/D has 21 certified in Mint State.
The finest is a single MS65.
in higher Mint State grades. 5 certified in MS64. Finest
is a single MS65. Pieces found in shipwrecks S.S. Brother
Jonathan and S.S. Central America. Only 2 proofs are
known. One is in the Smithsonian and the other is certified
found in XF to AU condition. Rare in grades above MS62.
The large number certified in MS64, 54, is no doubt
a result of resubmission to achieve a Gem grade. So
far none have been successful. A doubled die obverse
shows doubling on Liberty’s ear and is sometimes
called the “Earring Variety.” No proofs
are known, but 1 may exist as part of a set given to
the city of Bremen, Germany in 1854.
softly struck in the center of the obverse and on the
eagle’s neck. Usually found in XF to AU condition.
Only 8 have been certified Mint State by both services.
The finest certified is a single MS64. Found with Large
and Medium D’s. The Medium D is rarer.
found in XF to AU condition. Rare in Mint State with
7 certified in Mint State by both services, 6 of which
are the finest in MS62. Approximately 9 proofs are known
with 7 certified. The finest is a single PFUC66.
in all dates; rare in Mint State with only 9 graded
by both services, the highest of which is a single MS65.
Approximately 11 proofs are known. Only 6 have been
certified. The finest is a single PFCA66.
is the most common date of the type, but it is always
in demand because of its Civil War date. Rare above
MS64; the finest certified are 3 in MS66. Approximately
9 proofs are known. Only 3 have been certified, the
finest is a single PFCA66.
than 100 are known to exist in all grades with only
2 certified in Mint State. Both examples are MS62s.
Approximately 13 proofs are known, of which 12 have
been certified. The finest is a PFUC66.