19th Century Gold
$5 CORONET HEAD, NO MOTTO 1839 - 1866
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||HALF EAGLES - CORONET
||NGC MS 62
In the late 1830s Christian Gobrecht began to introduce his designs for the $2.50, $5.00 and $10.00 gold coins. Gobrecht’s Coronet Head obverse design featured a bust of Ms. Liberty facing left. It was similar to the motif he had developed for the large cents of the same era. The eagle on the reverse was similar to the bird that had previously appeared on the Classic Head quarter and half eagles except that the wings were held a bit higher.
The motto, “In God we trust,” would not be added to the reverse of these coins until 1866. Five dollars was a great of money in the 19th century, and few collectors could afford to set very many of these pieces aside. Therefore strictly Mint State examples of this type are scarce.
The 1861 half eagle shown above is a very attractive example with original surfaces. The mintage was high for this and all of the other gold denominations in 1861, except the unpopular Three Dollar Gold Piece, because the Union side needed additional funds to finance the beginning of the Civil War. The Union Government soon learned that the war would be far longer and costly than almost anyone could imagine. Before long the North was financing the war with bonds and paper money, and the people withdrew gold coins like this one from circulation.