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CLASSIC GOLD COINAGE

Classic Head Quarter Eagles - Classic Head Half Eagles


Classic Head $2.5 (1834-1839)

The 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 for recoinage.

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 coins.

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, 10.08% copper
(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)

1834 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.

1835 Quarter Eagle
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 combined certifications.

1836 Quarter Eagle
Mintage: 547,986; Proof Mintage: 5-8

1836 Quarter Eagle, Script 8 (Also known as “Head of 1835”)
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.

1836 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.

1837 Quarter Eagle
Mintage: 45,080; Proof Mintage: 3-5 (Two proofs are known, one of which is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian.)
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.

1838 Quarter Eagle
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.

1838-C Quarter Eagle
Mintage: 7,880
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.

1839 Quarter Eagle
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.

1839-D Quarter Eagle
Mintage: 13,674
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.

1839-O Quarter Eagle
Mintage: 17,781
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.


Classic Head $5 (1834-1838)

William Kneass designed the Classic 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 Classic 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.

Specifications:
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 8.359 grams (129.0 grains) (.2687 troy ounces)
Diameter: 22.5 millimeters
Composition: (1834-36) 89.92% gold, 10.08% silver & copper
(1837-38) 90% gold, 10% copper
Gold Content: (1834-36) 7.516 grams (115.989 grains) (0.2416 troy ounces)
(1837-38) 7.523 grams (116.097 grains) (0.2418 troy ounces)

1834 Half Eagle
Mintage: 657,460; Proof Mintage: 8-12 (All the proof coins of this date are the Plain 4 variety.)

1834 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 and resubmissions.

1834 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.

1835 Half Eagle
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.

1836 Half Eagle
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 better.

1837 Half Eagle
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.

1838 Half Eagle
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.

1838-C Half Eagle
Mintage: 17,179
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.

1838-D Half Eagle
Mintage: 20,583
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.


Classic Head Quarter Eagles - Classic Head Half Eagles


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