The History of $10 Liberty Gold Coins
The $10 Liberty gold coin was struck in three different versions, but for the sake of common date designs, we will discuss the type III design, though all three designs do share some commonalities in American History. The span of production for the $10 Liberty coin Type III ran from 1866 through 1907. This coin is also known as the "Coronet". The word coronet is a synonym for "Tiara" which would be today's common term for a small half crown. The coin was so known because "Lady Liberty" is wearing a coronet emblazoned with the word "Liberty" offset to the extreme left side so that he entire word is visible on her left-facing profile. Another common but un-specific name for this coin is the "Eagle" because the Coinage Act of 1792 set the official value of an "Eagle" at $10 U.S.
The artist responsible for the images that grace the Type III Liberty is Christian Gobrecht. The design is very similar, with slight variations over the years to the $5 Liberty gold piece. The reverse, or back of the coin features an American Eagle holding 3 arrows in the left talon, and a curling olive branch in the right 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 (Homage to the 13 colonies is also payed on the front of the coin in the form of 13 stars). 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 "Ten D." are wrapped in a circular fashion around the outer circumference of the coin.
The design of the coin, particularly the facial characteristics of Lady Liberty herself, has drawn criticism from early on in it’s inception and eventual production. Detractors from the coin’s design were vocal about the bridge of Lady Liberty’s nose seeming to stem directly from the middle of her forehead, which seems to be at odds with basic human anatomy and realism. Though there have been perhaps more “homely” depictions of lady liberty, the remarks surrounding Lady Liberty’s profile must be noted.
Interestingly, the people of the United States seemed to be more critical of the artwork that graced their coinage back in the 1800’s specifically. For instance, Americans felt that quite often the depictions of the American Eagle on the back, or reverse, of the coinage often more resembled a thin or scrawny chicken rather than a regal bird of prey. Specific to this $10 Liberty gold coin design, were notations and criticisms that the American Eagle was “all head and talons” and that the wings were of such a small proportion to the rest of the American Eagle that it would never be able to take to the skies.
Perhaps one of the more trivial negative comments about the Gobrecht design of the $10 Liberty gold coin stemmed from the placement of the word "Liberty" across the coronet that graces the head of Lady Liberty. Some were quick to point out that in reality that any word engraved in the coronet would be centered, and that only half of the wording would be visible from a profile view. Incidentally, there are several other designs that repeat and perpetuate this "flaw".
Incidentally, President Theodore Roosevelt would eventually shake the U.S. Mint to it’s very foundations by having a true sculptor (Augustus Saint-Gaudens) redesign and recreate several of America’s gold coin designs thus replacing the work of seemingly tenured U.S. Mint artists and engravers which were none too happy about being replaced with a man who was not even an employee of the U.S. Mint, but rather a personal friend of the president.
In any event, the perhaps “sophomoric” designs and renderings of those that worked at the mint were replaced by designs that President Teddy Roosevelt found much more befitting and representative of a nation that had grown substantially in size, power, wealth, and international influence, and would be more suitably represented by a truly beautiful woman and a strong and capable eagle, rather than a disproportionate chicken masquerading as a national symbol of pride and strength.
Worthy of note, however, is that collectors of rare American coinage specifically collect these earlier versions of Liberty coins specifically for the “unusual” artwork that depicts an era gone by where not everything was easily accomplished or perfectly rendered. For this reason true American gold coin collections are not complete without the works of Christian Gobrecht and his contemporaries.
Composition of the Type III Liberty $10 Gold Piece
The Type III coin holds .48375 ounces of gold, which makes up 90% of the coin mass. The other 10% of metal in the coin consists of copper mined in America. The diameter of the coin is 27mm, and the Eagle is finished with a "Reeded" edge, very similar to the U.S. Dimes and Quarters in circulation today. Over the production span of the $10 Liberty gold piece, it was produced at five U.S. Mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Denver, Carson City, and San Francisco. The most common surviving examples were produced at the Philadelphia Mint.
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