First minted in 1839, the Liberty Head half eagle, sometimes called the Coronet Head because of the coronet worn by Liberty, is considered a continuation of the influence of Neoclassicism style first seen on the half eagle in 1834. The Christian Gobrecht modification of William Kneass’ Liberty portrait was to last almost 70 years nearly unchanged, until replaced by the Bela Lyon Pratt Indian Head style in 1908. The last significant change to the Liberty Head design occurred near the end of the Civil War. During that conflict religious feeling was ascendant; few families were untouched by the mayhem and uncertainty that accompanied the war’s prosecution. Just a few weeks before the euphoria of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which was followed a few days later by the horror of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, The Act of March 3, 1865, mandated the placement of IN GOD WE TRUST on all coins large enough to accommodate the inscription. The year 1866 saw half eagles minted both with and without the motto.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht; motto scroll by James B. Longacre
Circulation Mintage: high 5,708,802 (1881), low 200 (1875; none in 1887)
Proof Mintage: high 230 (1900), low 20 (1874, 1875, 1877, 1878)
Diameter: 21.6 mm, reeded edge.
Metal Content: 90% gold, 10% copper
Varieties: Several known including 1873 Close 3 and Open 3; 1881 Final 1 Over 0; 1901-S, Final 1 Over 0; and other minor die variations