Take a look at Classic Head gold by Mike Sussman
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
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
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
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