Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the $5 Liberty Head ½ Eagle was produced continuously from 1839 to 1908 with each coin containing just under a ¼ ounce of gold.
The obverse design features an idealized bust image of Lady Liberty facing left wearing a coronet with “LIBERTY” inscribed. Above the bust design are 13 stars to represent the original states or colonies.
The reverse features an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. A banner is above the eagle design with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. On the outer periphery above the eagle is the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and just below the eagle design is the denomination "FIVE D." A mint mark for New Orleans (O), Charlotte (C), Dahlongea (D) until 1861, San Francisco (S), Carson City (CC), (or from 1906-08) Denver (D) is located at the bottom of the design below the eagle's claws. Coins minted at the Philadelphia Mint carried no mint marks.
Though there are many small die varieties the series has only three major varieties:
Variety 1 Small Diameter - issued from 1839-1840 with a diameter of 21.6 mm
Variety 2 No Motto - issued from 1839 to 1866
Variety 3 With Motto - from 1866 to 1908 the reverse design was modified by adding a banner above the eagle with the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST".
|Variety 2||Variety 3|
General Market Notes
Excluding die varieties and proofs, the keys to the series are the 1854-S & 1875 issues. The semi-keys are the 1861-D, 1864-S, 1870-CC, 1873-CC, and 1878-CC issues.
For the value investor the 1839 issue is a coin always in demand but its price is only slightly higher than most common coins. Look for Philadelphia issues from 1862 to 1872, all are low mintage screamers without the huge price tag.
Another great coin is the first Denver issue, 1906-D. It has the same value in most grades as the 1907-D but has a way lower mintage of 320,000 versus 888,000. Being one of only two Denver issues for the series these coins are always popular among collectors.
Due to the high valuations of these coins it is not uncommon to discover altered or counterfeit coins. It is highly recommended NOT to purchase a raw specimen but a certified coin from a reputable seller.