The $5 Liberty gold piece is also sometimes referred to as a "Half-Eagle" or also as a "Coronet Head" and several versions were produced from 1795 to 1929 in differing designs. Today the most common is the "Coronet with Motto" design which was produced from 1866 to 1908. In 1792, Congress passed the Mint Act, and contained in the legislation was a little law that set the value of $10 U.S. to be equal to the term "Eagle".
This act also set the value of $5 U.S. equal to the term "Half-Eagle". When the coin is referred to as the "Coronet Head" this is in reference to the design on the front, or obverse of the coin, which features a rendition of "Lady Liberty" wearing a coronet which would be more commonly called a tiara today. Across the coronet, but heavily aligned to the left, is the word "Liberty". Lady Liberty herself is facing to the left, with locks of hair flowing out of the bun hairdo she is wearing. This design was seen as much more casual than the previous artistic versions of Lady Liberty which had appeared on American coinage. At the time of the coin's introduction, critics noted that the word "Liberty" would not be fully visible on her coronet if the artwork was truly representative of reality because any writing on her coronet would be centered and not entirely visible on a profile design.
Throughout the storied history of the United States of America, there have only been eight mints to ever produce the coinage that allowed the U.S. and her citizenry to compete and eventually dominate global trade and commerce. The exacting standards for maintaining quality and purity in regards to creating gold and silver coins achieved by the United States Mints was seen as second to none, and for this reason the world not only accepted but grew to prefer the coinage of the U.S.A.
As time unfolded, certain U.S. Mints closed, for various reasons, while new U.S. Mints opened further west as the country and her people settled the new frontiers and needed gold and silver coins in order to effect commerce. The silver and gold rushes in Nevada, Colorado and California resulted in new U.S. Mints being built in Carson City, Denver and San Francisco, respectively.
The Liberty Head design $5 gold coin was first introduced in 1839, and this design continued mostly unchanged until 1908. Being that the coin had a run of 69 years, the design saw U.S. Mints come and go, but the Liberty Head or Coronet design was struck at all seven U.S. Mints that existed during this time period. The West Point Mint which is located in New York near Peekskill, was not built until 1937, (several years after the Liberty Head gold coins had been discontinued) eventually produced a $5 commemorative half-eagle, thus making the $5 denomination the only coin to be minted at every U.S. Mint.
Because the Liberty Head $5 gold coin did have such a long production run, there were several changes in it’s size, metal content, and inscriptions. For instance, prior to 1866, the motto “In God We Trust” was not included in the coin’s design. Also, as the official price of gold was changed in the United States, the coins size was changed to reflect the correct weight to equal the coin’s face value of $5. Interestingly, the markings of the coin never included the word “Dollars”. The designers of the coin used the marking “5 D.” or “Five D.” to denote the value of the coin.
About the $5 Gold Liberty Gold Coin Reverse Design and Composition
The design on the reverse, or back of the coin, is a depiction of a strong eagle holding three arrows in one talon, and a curling olive branch in the other talon. A small shield covers the eagle's chest, and on the shield are 13 vertical stripes, one for each of the original 13 U.S. Colonies. A banner above the head of the eagle has the motto "In God We Trust" set in relief, or raised, printed across it. The words "United States Of America" and "Five D." are wrapped in a circular fashion around the outer circumference of the coin. The metallic composition of the Half-Eagle changed several times over the years, bu the final mix was set at 90% gold with silver and / or copper comprising the other 10% of the coin’s makeup. The Half-Eagle also holds two distinguishing footnotes in American coinage history: The Half-Eagle was the first gold coin produced in the U.S., and this denomination was the only coin to be minted at eight U.S. Mints. These mints were Philadelphia, Carson City, San Francisco, Dahlonega, Denver, New Orleans, and Charlotte prior to 1929. A commemorative version of the $5 coin was later minted at West Point.
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