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$5 Half Eagle Coins (Early 1795-1838)

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Early $5 Gold Half Eagles

The Half Eagle was the first Gold coin struck for the United States. The $5 Half Eagle denomination belongs to the rare Gold coins category, the largest and most important segment of the rare coin market.

The popular Capped Bust was designed by Assistant Chief Mint Engraver John Reich. Reich, who was disturbed by the fact that he had not yet been promoted, was threatening to leave the country and return to Europe when Mint Director Robert Patterson was granted permission by President Thomas Jefferson to promote him. Reich was immediately assigned the task to redesign the nation's coinage. He began with coins most in demand, which were the Half and Quarter Eagles. His design featured a stout-looking Miss Liberty, for which he immediately caught unsavory reviews from news journals.

Probably the most notable feature of Reich's design was the inclusion of "5 D" on the bottom of the coin's reverse. Until that point, the denomination could not be found on the coin. Reich was the first to include it.

Classic Head Design

Classic Head designs have arguably the most interesting story in U.S. numismatics. The Classic Head design was not by accident or boredom, but because it was more of a necessity than anything else. Due to the influx of Silver coinage entering world markets, namely from Latin America, the price of Silver was lowered relative to Gold, which in turn made U.S. Gold coinage worth more than its face value. People began hoarding these coins, refusing to spend them for this reason, hoping they'd continue to go up in value.

Instead, a bill was introduced to Congress that lowered the weight of the Gold Eagle, the Half Eagle and the Quarter Eagle by the Act of June 28, 1834 on August 1, 1834. To help distinguish which coins were made with more Gold and which coins were not, the U.S. Mint prepared reverse dies that omitted the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and used an old John Reich design for its new obverse. This new design became known as the Classic Head design. These Classic Head designs, however, were only used on Half and Quarter Eagles and were only used for six years.

The Classic Head series was the first series to be struck at a branch mint and display branch mintmarks, as they were struck in Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans. These particular pieces are always in demand, as their mintmarks appear on the obverse.

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