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Undervalued series
Take a look at Classic Head gold
by Mike Sussman

The third Mint Engraver, William Kneass, designed the Classic Head gold coins. The Classic Head motif was used for quarter eagles from 1834 to 1839 and half eagles from 1834 to 1838. The appointment of Kneass may have been a result of his friendship with Adam Eckfeldt who was the second Chief Coiner at the Mint.

In 1835 Kneass suffered a debilitating stroke and died in office five years later. Kneass had been a field engineer in the War of 1812 and helped fortify the city of Philadelphia. He was an engraver of plates for books and had his business on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. In addition to line engraving he also made intaglio prints. He worked in two firms, Kneass & Delaker and Young & Kneass & Co.

At the Mint, Kneass was known as a popular and useful Engraver, who worked well and quickly to furnish all the dies that were needed for coinage during his time of office. He was remembered as, “a warm gentleman of the old-school, who had the rare quality of engaging and winning the esteem and affection of children and youth.” From the time of his stroke until his death, Assistant Engraver Christian Gobrecht did the pattern and die work at the Mint. Kneass was succeeded by Gobrecht as Chief Engraver on December 21, 1840.

The Classic Head design was among his last works. It portrayed Liberty wearing a LIBERTY inscribed headband, similar to John Reich’s Classic Head large cent design. The reverse showed an eagle with outspread wings and head facing left. It had a shield on its breast and arrows and olive branches in its talons. After the first two years of issue, the metallic content of the Classic Head coins was increased to 90% gold.

Specifications:
Weight: $2½ 4.18 grams; $5 8.36 grams
Composition: .8992 gold, .1008 silver (changed to .900 gold in 1837)
Diameter: $2½ 18.2 mm; $5 22.5 mm
Edge: reeded


Classic Head Gold

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