Capped Bust Gold, 1807-1834

Capped Bust Gold coins, 1807-1834

In 1808 John Reich redesigned the quarter eagle. The diameter remained the same as earlier, but the obverse and reverse motifs were changed. Miss Liberty now faces left, wearing a loose cloth cap secured by a band inscribed LIBERTY. Seven stars are to the left and six are to the right, and the date 1808 appears below. The reverse depicts an eagle perched on an olive branch and holding three arrows. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is on a band or ribbon above. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and 2 1/2 D is around the border. The denomination is stated for the first time on a quarter eagle. The mintage figure of 2,710 on its own would suggest a rarity, but the demand for the coin as the only year of its design type has projected it into the forefront of popular rarities among American gold coins. It is believed that perhaps three or four dozen exist, nearly all of which are in the grades of Very Fine or Extremely Fine, although at least two Uncirculated coins can be accounted for.

No quarter eagles were coined from 1809 through 1820 inclusive. In 1821 the denomination was again produced. The design is similar to that used in 1808, except that the diameter is reduced to 18.5 mm and the portrait of Miss Liberty appears smaller and is circled by stars. This general style was continued in use through 1834. Mintages in all instances were low, with the production of one variety, the 1826, estimated at just 760 pieces.

All quarter eagles of the 1821-1834 years are rare today. Most examples seen are in grades from Very Fine through AU, although scattered Uncirculated pieces have appeared at auction, as have a few Proofs. It is not unusual for an Uncirculated piece to have a prooflike surface.

The design is similar to that used in coinage struck between 1821 and 1827 except the diameter was further reduced to 18.2 mm in 1829 and the portrait of Miss Liberty appears smaller and is circled by stars. This general style was continued in use through 1834. Mintages in all instances were low.

All quarter eagles of the 1829-1834 years are rare today. Most examples seen are in grades from Very Fine through AU, although scattered Uncirculated pieces have appeared at auction, as have a few Proofs. It is not unusual for an Uncirculated piece to have a prooflike surface.

In 1807 John Reich redesigned the half eagle. The new style is the forerunner of that adopted a year later for the quarter eagle. The obverse depicts Miss Liberty facing left, wearing a cloth cap inscribed LIBERTY, with seven stars to the left and six to the right. The reverse shows an eagle perched on a palm branch, holding three arrows, with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM on a ribbon or band above. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 5 D. surrounds. This style was produced from 1807 through 1812.

Although there are some scarce die varieties within the 1807-1812 span, there are no rare dates, and the type set collector can choose from virtually any date desired. Specimens are available in all grades, with Very Fine to AU coins appearing on the market with some frequency, (relatively speaking, of course). All early American gold coins are rare in comparison to later issues. Uncirculated coins are offered from time to time, especially when great collections are dispersed, and typically have frosty rather than prooflike surfaces.

In 1813 the John Reich design was modified to a portrait featuring the head and part of the neck of Miss Liberty, facing right, an abbreviated version of the earlier style. In the new version, the stars completely surround the head, and the date is below. The reverse motif remains the same. From 1813 to 1829 half eagles were minted with a diameter of 25mm.

Although mintages were fairly generous for many half eagles from 1813 through 1829, nearly all of the issues in this span are great rarities today. The type set collector will have the best luck and the best use of his money if an issue such as 1813, 1814/3, 1818, or 1820 is selected, none of which will be inexpensive, but other issues are apt to be much more costly. The half eagle of the 1813-1829 design type is one of the highlights of a type set of early American gold coins.

In 1829 the diameter was reduced to 22.5 mm and certain other modifications occurred, under the direction of William Kneass. Technically speaking, the 1829-1834 reduced diameter format can be considered a separate type, but as half eagles of this era are exceedingly rare, most numismatists have been content to consider the span 1813-1834 as a single design. The determination of what is a design type and what isn’t is a matter of personal preference. There are many variables, such as the star count and position differences noted, for example, among half eagles of the 1795-1807 Heraldic Eagle reverse style.

Although mintages were fairly generous for many half eagles from 1813 through 1834, nearly all of the issues in this span are great rarities today and is one of the highlights of a type set of early American gold coins.

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