The $5 gold Liberty Half Eagle shares its design with the 1838 Gold Eagle and the 1840 Gold Quarter Eagle. Created by sculptor Christian Gobrecht, the obverse portrays Liberty, her hair tied in a bun with a string of beads and wearing a coronet inscribed “LIBERTY.” Thirteen stars encircle her and below her is the date.
Half Eagles struck in Charlotte and Dahlonega in 1839 also had the mintmark placed above the date. The simple design of the obverse and the Greco-Roman style bust of Liberty reflect the strong influence of neoclassicism on Gobrecht’s design.
First struck in 1839, Gobrecht’s Half Eagles are generally classified as “With Motto” and “No Motto,” referring to the presence or absence of a banner bearing the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” above the eagle. The motto first appeared in 1866 and remained through the Half Eagle’s final mintage in 1908.
The Liberty Half Eagle is the only coin to have been struck at all five of the traditional mints – Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, San Francisco, and Denver – as well as the southern mints at Charlotte and Dahlonega. Half Eagles minted in the South contain 90% pure gold alloyed with a mix of copper and as much as five percent naturally occurring silver.
Altogether 9,114,049 Liberty Half Eagles were struck over 28 years. In general, “With Motto” coins are more prevalent in higher grades than are “No Motto” coins, and the Southern rarities from Charlotte and Dahlonega are found only with no motto.
The $5 gold half eagle was one of the longest lasting denominations in our history, being in almost continuous circulation from the end of the 18th century until 1929. The gold content of the Liberty Half Eagle was reduced from 1/4 to 0.2419 ounce, which at the fixed gold price of $20.67 per ounce equaled its face value of five dollars.
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