The obverse of this coin has engraver John Reich’s very European-looking version of Miss Liberty facing left. Her soft cap has LIBERTY incused, the date is centered at the bottom, seven stars are to the left, and six stars are to the right. The reverse features a more natural-looking eagle with the Union shield on its chest. For the first time in the half eagle series, the denomination is displayed. The motto is incused on a ribbon that arcs from wing tip to wing tip, and the legend surrounds the central devices. In its claws the eagle holds an olive branch and three arrows. Unlike the previous Type, these heraldic symbols are now in their proper place. The designer John Reich came to America as an indentured servant to escape the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars. He toiled at the Mint for a decade before quitting in disgust over never having been given a raise, and working under the overbearing and far less-talented Robert Scot.
Assistant Engraver Reich had been tasked with creating new designs for all circulating coins, and worked his way to the half eagle in 1807. The design is also seen on dimes, quarters and quarter eagles. Interestingly, from 1808 to 1820 half eagles were the only gold coin minted by America. Much of this is due to the half eagle being the banks’ favorite denomination. They served well for foreign trade and bank reserves.
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