HALF EAGLE $5 GOLD CLASSIC CROSS 4, NGC AU58 Click on Coin Image to
$5 Classic Cross 4, NGC AU58
$5 Classic Cross 4, NGC AU58. The 1834 Crosslet 4
Classic Head half eagle is approximately ten times
rarer than the Plain 4 variety. Few examples survive
in Mint State. Both of the Smithsonian’s examples
are, like the present coin, AU58s. In its population
report, NGC shows 10 at the AU58 grade level.
Please contact me by email
or telephone 1-800-624-1870
to reserve this great coin.
This near-Mint State,
spectacularly eye-appealing 1834 Classic Head Half
Eagle has original mint luster remaining within its
devices. The strike is strong with full details on
the centers of the stars, Liberty’s hair, and
the reverse rims. The surfaces are a mixture of yellow
and greenish gold, which attests to the coin’s
originality. They are clean for the grade with no
notable abrasion marks or other distractions.
William Kneass designed the Classic
Head half eagle, which was minted from 1834 to 1838.
He chose to use Reich’s Classic Head motif that
was used on large cents of 1808 to 1814. Kneass also
adapted Reich’s eagle from the five dollar piece
of 1807. The design of the coin shows a profile of
Liberty facing left. Her curly hair is held with a
band that is inscribed LIBERTY. She is surrounded
by thirteen six-pointed stars, with the date below.
Around the periphery are dentils on both sides. The
coin has a reeded edge. The reverse shows a heraldic
eagle whose head is turned to the left. In its talons
it holds the olive branch and arrows, symbols peace
The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
appears in an interrupted arc around the coin with
the denomination, written as 5 D. below. Missing is
the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, which was removed from
the reverse to signify the change in weight from 135
grains to 129. It seems that Mint Director Samuel
Moore was looking for a reason to phase out the motto
for several years, and the change in weight mandated
by Congress was the perfect opportunity. The weight
and fineness of the coin were changed in order to
prevent continued melting for bullion purposes. As
a result most of the original gold coins that were
minted prior to1834 were turned in to the mint, much
of it to be used to make the new half eagles.
Kneass (pronounced Niece) was the
second Chief Engraver. He served from 1824 until his
death in 1840. In addition to the Classic Head Half
Eagle, his classic head motif was used on the quarter
eagles of 1834 to 1839. Kneass modified Reich’s
Capped Bust motif for silver coinage for the years
1829 to 1837 and the half dime in 1829.
For the last five years of his life,
Kneass suffered from the results of a severe stroke
that left him paralyzed on his right side. For those
years, his assistant Christian Gobrecht did the die
and pattern work at the Mint. When Kneass died in
1840, Gobrecht succeeded him as Chief Engraver.
Kneass was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
He was the second Chief Engraver of the United States
Mint and served from 1824 until his death in 1840.
Kneass was a field engineer in the War of 1812 and
helped fortify the city of Philadelphia. He was an
engraver of plates for books and had his business
on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, which was a popular
meeting place for people of “culture.”
In addition to line engraving he also made intaglio
He worked in two firms, Kneass &
Delaker and Young & Kneass & Co. At the Mint,
Kneass was known as a popular and useful Engraver,
who worked well and quickly to furnish all the dies
that were needed for coinage during his time of office.
He was remembered as, “a warm gentleman of the
old-school, who had the rare quality of engaging and
winning the esteem and affection of children and youth.”
Kneass designed the Classic Head motif for the quarter
eagle and half eagle. He also was responsible for
modifying John Reich’s Capped Bust design for
the dime through half dollar for 1829 to 1837. In
addition he modified the Capped Bust design for use
on the half-dime of 1829.
The 1834 Crosslet 4 Classic Head half
eagle is approximately ten times rarer than the Plain
4 variety. Few examples survive in Mint State. Both
of the Smithsonian’s examples are, like the
present coin, AU58s. In its population report, NGC
shows 10 at the AU58 grade level.