Half Eagle Denomination

eagleThe Coinage Act of 1792 authorized the construction of a mint building in Philadelphia and also authorized the production of coinage in ten different denominations. One of these was known as the half eagle, representing $5 and containing 123-6/8 grains (8.02 grams) pure or 135 grains (8.75 grams) standard gold. The coins were to carry an image emblematic of Liberty on the obverse and the figure or representation of an eagle with the inscription “United States of America” on the reverse.

The half eagles would actually represent the first gold coinage officially struck by the United States Mint. The designs, which would also match the other gold denominations, featured a bust of Liberty on the obverse wearing a turban or cap. The reverse featured a small eagle within an open wreath with the required inscription surrounding.

As can be imagined these early gold coins are today quite scarce. This is due to low mintage levels and also a fair amount of melting which took place. At various times, the market value of gold exceeded the face value of the coins such that they could be profitably melted down.

Future series of half eagles would carry similar designs, with interpretations of Liberty by a number of different engravers. The longest running image was designed by Christian Gobrecht for the Liberty Head type issued from 1839 until 1908.

The final series for the denomination was the Indian Head type designed by Bela Lyon Pratt with an incuse design featuring a Native American.

Westward Journey Series Brings Permanent Change

In 1999, the United States Mint began the highly popular series of State Quarters, which would feature 50 different designs over the course of ten years. The early success led to the formulation of a similar program for the circulating five cent coin or nickel.

Since 1938, the design had been little changed, featuring a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and his home at Monticello on the reverse. This was designed by Felix Schlag and selected as the result of a public design contest. For more than six decades, this was the face of the denomination.


For the years 2004 to 2006, the nickel underwent a rapid series of design changes to mark the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark expedition. In 2004, two different designs were featured for the reverse featuring the Peace Medal and a keelboat. The following year, a brand new obverse design was paired with two reverse design featuring an American bison and the ocean in view.

During the time of issue, the four different designs were collecting by the public from pocket change, in much the same way as the State Quarters series. The United States Mint also introduced numerous numismatic products to capitalize on the popular appeal.


To bring the series to completion, a second new obverse portrait of Thomas Jefferson was introduced in 2007 along with the original Monticello reverse design. This became the new permanent design of the Jefferson Nickel for future years. After many decades without a change, the Westward Journey series reinvigorated the denomination for a new generation.

An Exceptional Half Dime

One of the favorite coins in my collection is one of tiniest. The half dime was authorized under the Coinage Act of 1792 as the smallest silver denomination. The weight of the coin was just 1.35 grams, which was later reduced to 1.34 grams. The diameter was a 15.5 mm, making it both smaller and thinner than the dime.


I came across this 1829 half dime, which was graded NGC AU 53 in an old holder. While the scan above does not convey completely, the coin is covered in colorful, original toning. Furthermore, the coin displays much greater detail and minimal wear than the grade level would suggest. As a premium example for the given grade, I decided to mark the purchase. I sent the coin to CAC and it received their gold sticker, indicating that the coin exceeded their standards for the given grade level.

Slowly but surely I will attempt to build a collection of the Capped Bust Half Dimes in similar grade and quality. The series is relatively short lived, running from 1829 to 1837. This makes for only nine different dates to acquire. There are no significant key dates for the series so all coins carry a modest price tag for about uncirculated coins.

It’s not the most popular series, so not every dealer has a lot of examples available. However, I am sure I will be able to pick up an outstanding coin or two in the coming years.

Learn About Collecting State Quarters

Do you enjoy collecting items to have a complete set? Do you have a love of history? Do you appreciate how it has made the United States such a great nation? If you answered yes to these questions, you may be interested in collecting state quarters. If you need some added motivation to understand the joy of collecting these quarters, look at the historical value of these quarters to see what treasures these coins really are.

Each quarter was made to display something important for the state that it represents. A good example of this is the statue of Liberty on the back of the New York quarter along with a picture of the state itself. On the other side of the coin is a portrait of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Throughout the series, the coins follow the same format with a design representative of the state on the reverse and the common obverse design featuring Washington.

These coins can be very educational thanks to the landmarks and historical figures that are etched on to each coin. If you look at the complete set of quarters, you will see historical events that have happened over the years and much more on each unique coin. Some events depicted include the historic First Flight, the Crossing of the Delaware, the return of Lewis & Clark, and the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.

The State Quarters are a great tribute to the past. Although no one can forget something as important as the Statue being located in New York, the coin still gives people an emotional reaction. It pays tribute to the way that this statue affects immigrants coming to America.

A Brief History Of Liberty Nickels

Liberty nickels were coins that were produced by the US mint between the year 1883 and the year 1913. Although the coin features a relatively simple design, it holds great appeal to coin collectors. On the obverse of the coin there is a Liberty head, and on the reverse is a Roman numeral V positioned within a wreath. This five cent coin was stuck in 75 percent copper and 15 percent nickel in a low relief.

Both the beginning and the end of this coin series were marked by interesting events. The new coin was introduced in January 30, 1883. Almost immediately after its unveiling Mint officials realized that the five million nickels that were already distributed did not have the word ‘cents’ under the V on the coin. This made it easy for scam artists to coat the surface with gold to make them look like five dollar gold pieces. A new variety with the denomination indicated more clearly was created and distributed. However, many people had already been conned by the fake 5 dollar coins, which were actually 5 cent coins. This story has become much recounted within numismatic lore adding to the historical background of the series.

The Liberty Head Nickels were originally produced by the Philadelphia Mint, but in 1912, additional production took place at San Francisco and Denver. This year would become the last of regular production, but that was not the end of the story. Collectors found at least five 1913 Liberty nickels, which were apparently created under surreptitious circumstances. In 2010, one of these nickels sold for around four million dollars, a rather high priced historic oddity.