Classic Head Quarter Eagle was minted
from 1834 to 1839. Designed by William Kneass, the Classic
Head Quarter Eagle shows a head of Liberty in profile
facing left. She wears a LIBERTY inscribed headband that reveals
the curly hair on top of her head, which also flows down her
neck. She is surrounded by thirteen six-pointed stars, and
the date is below. Dentils are around the periphery of the
coin. The reverse of the Classic
Head Quarter Eagle shows a heraldic eagle with its head
facing left. In its talons are olive branch and arrows, symbols
of peace and preparedness. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is in
an arc around the eagle, interrupted by the wing tips. The
denomination of the Classic
Head Quarter Eagle written as 2 ½ D. is below.
Because the gold coinage in
circulation was being melted for its gold content, Mint Director
Samuel Moore ordered William Kneass to design quarter and
half eagles with lower weight and fineness. He also told Kneass
to omit the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM on the new Classic
Head Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle coins so they would
be easily identified as being made with less gold content.
This action prevented the older gold coins from being exported,
and the public was thus induced to bring them into the Mint
The Classic Head motif chosen
by Kneass is a copy of John Reich’s Large Cent design
of 1808-1814 and the half cents of 1825-1836. The eagle design
is also similar to an earlier Reich eagle designed for gold
There were several design changes
in the series. In 1834 there were two heads, the “Small
Head” and the “Booby Head.” The next year
there was a taller head and a narrow bust. In that year Kneass
suffered a debilitating stroke. Christian Gobrecht, his assistant,
made the next dies. The 1836 had a Head of 1835 and another
with a Head of 1834. No doubt these were made from earlier
dies. In 1837 Gobrecht made a new die, which had his own change.
The hair slopes back from the brow, distant from the sixth
star. In 1838 he made a crude imitation of the “Booby
Head” with tiny stars. In 1839 all of this uncertainty
ended with the introduction of the Coronet Head motif that
was standardized for sixty-seven years.
The total mintage of the Classic
Head Quarter Eagle was 968,228. The highest mintage was
in 1836 with 547,986, and the lowest was 7,880 in 1838 at
the Mint in Charlotte.
Specifications: Edge: Reeded Weight: 4.18 grams (64.5 grains) (.1344 troy
ounces) Diameter: 17.5 millimeters (Note: The Red
Book A Guide Book of United States Coins incorrectly lists
the diameter as 18.2 millimeters.) Composition: (1834 to 1836) 89.92% gold,
(1837 to 1839) 90.00% gold, 10.00% copper Gold Content: (1834 to 1836) 3.759 grams
(58.00 grains) (.1208 troy ounces)
(1837 to 1839) 3.762 grams (58.049 grains) (.1209 troy ounces)
Quarter Eagle, No Motto
Regular Mintage: 112,234; Proof Mintage: estimated 15-25
Both the weight changed in this year from the Capped Head
to the Classic Head and from 4.37 grams to 4.18 grams. The
1834 Capped Head had a mintage of 4,000, so the new design
had significantly more pieces in circulation. Even though
the 1836 issue has a significantly higher mintage, the 1834,
No Motto is one of the most common dates for the type.
Mintage: 131,402; Proof Mintage: 5-8
Despite the fact that this date has the third highest mintage,
it is one of the rarer dates in the series. Both major grading
services have certified a total of 463 coins of this date
in all grades, and these numbers do not account for crossovers
and resubmissions. In contrast, the previous year had 1585
Quarter Eagle, Script 8 (Also known as “Head of
Since two different punches were used for the year, there
are two major varieties. Despite that fact that Garrett and
Guth in their Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins feel that the
Script 8 is approximately four times as common as the Block
8, the grading services have certified 955 Script 8 coins
and 605 Block 8 coins, which makes the Script 8 one and one-half
times as common.
Quarter Eagle, Block 8 (Also known as “Head of 1837”)
This coin is rarer than the Script 8, as indicated above.
In grades above MS64, both the Script 8 and the Block 8 have
4 coins certified by both grading services.
Mintage: 45,080; Proof Mintage: 3-5 (Two proofs are known,
one of which is in the National Numismatic Collection at the
The mintage for this date is less than a tenth of the previous
year. The grading services have certified 379 combined for
all grades with only 4 above MS63. This date’s coins
are numerous in circulated grades, but they are hard to find
in uncirculated condition.
Mintage: 47,030; Proof Mintage: 2-4 (One is in the Bass Collection,
others are unknown.)
The mintage for this date is about the same as the previous
year, but a few superior examples of this date exit, 8 in
MS65, 3 in MS66, and 2 in MS67. As usual these numbers do
not account for crossovers and resubmissions.
The 1838-C is the key coin and lowest mintage for the series.
Only one die pair was used and each piece shows doubling at
the mintmark, which was on the obverse of the coin. Only 145
coins of this date have been certified with only 1 in MS64
and none higher.
Mintage: 27,021; Proof Mintage: 4-6 (Three are reported, but
only two are known to exist.)
Researchers do not know why so few 1839 coins exit today considering
the original mintage. The combined certified number is 157,
only slightly more than the low mintage 1838-C. There are
only 2 coins in MS63 for this date with none better.
This issue is the only Classic Head made at the Dahlonega
Mint and the first quarter eagle made there. Most of the pieces
found today are in circulated condition. A total of 261 have
been certified in all grades. At MS64, 4 have been certified
with none better.
This last Classic
Head quarter eagle was the first issued from the New Orleans
Mint. Despite its relatively low mintage, it is easily available
in circulated and AU grades. A total of 532 have been certified
in all grades. The highest mint state coins are 4 in MS64
with none better.
William Kneass designed the
Head Half Eagle, which was minted from 1834 to 1838. He
chose to use Reich’s Classic Head motif that was used
on large cents of 1808 to 1814. Kneass also adapted Reich’s
eagle from the five dollar piece of 1807. The design of the
Head Half Eagle shows a profile of Liberty facing left.
Her curly hair is held with a band that is inscribed LIBERTY.
She is surrounded by thirteen six-pointed stars, with the
date below. Around the periphery of the Classic Head Half
Eagle are dentils on both sides. The coin has a reeded edge.
The reverse of the Classic
Head Half Eagle shows a heraldic eagle whose head is turned
to the left.
In its talons it holds the olive
branch and arrows, symbols peace and preparedness. The legend
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears in an interrupted arc around
the coin with the denomination, written as 5 D. below. Missing
is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, which was removed from the reverse
of the Classic
Head Half Eagle to signify the change in weight from 135
grains to 129. It seems that Mint Director Samuel Moore was
looking for a reason to phase out the motto for several years,
and the change in weight mandated by Congress was the perfect
opportunity. The weight and fineness of the coin were changed
in order to prevent continued melting for bullion purposes.
As a result most of the original gold coins that were minted
prior to1834 were turned in to the mint, much of it to be
used to make the new half eagles.
William Kneass (pronounced Niece)
was the second Chief Engraver. He served from 1824 until his
death in 1840. In addition to the Classic
Head Half Eagle, his classic head motif was used on the
quarter eagles of 1834 to 1839. Kneass modified Reich’s
Capped Bust motif for silver coinage for the years 1829 to
1837 and the half dime in 1829.
For the last five years of his
life, Kneass suffered from the results of a severe stroke
that left him paralyzed on his right side. For those years,
his assistant Christian Gobrecht did the die and pattern work
at the Mint. When Kneass died in 1840, Gobrecht succeeded
him as Chief Engraver.
Mintages of the Classic
Head Half Eagle varied from a high in 1834 of 657,460
to a low of 17,179 in 1838 at the new Mint in Charlotte.
Mintage: 657,460; Proof Mintage: 8-12 (All the proof coins
of this date are the Plain 4 variety.)
Half Eagle, Plain 4
With the weight reduction from 8.75 grams to 8.36 grams, the
mintage increased considerably. Of the two varieties for this
year, the Plain 4 is far more common with 3,012 certified
by both grading services and only 165 Crosslet 4 coins certified
by both services. These numbers do not account for crossovers
Half Eagle, Crosslet 4
The Crosslet 4 is 18 times rarer than the Plain 4 variety.
Few examples exist in mint state. PCGS has 8 and NGC has 10
in all mint state grades. Of course, some of these may be
resubmissions or crossovers. In total 165 coins have been
graded by both services.
Mintage: 371,534; Proof Mintage: 3-4 known
Considering that the 1835 is common in all grades, it is surprising
that there is only 1 in MS65 from both grading services with
22 combined in MS64.
Mintage: 553,147; Proof Mintage: 3-4 known
The 1836 is the second most common date in the series. Of
this date, 1729 coins have been certified by both grading
services. Yet in MS65 there are only 4 combined with none
Mintage: 207,121; Proof Mintage: 4-6 estimated mintage
Included in the mintage numbers are two varieties, a script
8 and a block style 8. In grades above MS64 there are 5 from
both grading services. The grading services only recently
began to distinguish the varieties so the numbers are insufficient
to discover any trend.
Mintage: 286,588; Proof Mintage: 2-3 estimated mintage
The 1838 half eagle is obtainable in almost all grades. However,
in MS65 and above it is rare. NCG has certified none higher
than MS64, and PCGS has 3 in MS65 and 1 in MS66.
The 1838-C is a key date in the series that is almost as rare
as the 1834, Crosslet 4. Mint state examples are especially
hard to find with only 1 at PCGS, an MS63, and 4 at NGC 1
in each grade from MS60 to MS63. In total 217 have been certified
by both services.
Like the 1839-D quarter eagle, the 1838-D
half eagle was the first and only Classic
Head half eagle struck at the Dahlonega Mint. It is the
third rarest date in the series. All of the coins were struck
from one die pair, and most are found in circulated condition.
In all, 292 coins of this date have been certified by both
services. In MS63 there are 4 with none better.