The obverse of Classic Head Half Eagles is an adaptation of the obverse used on 1808 Large Cents. A rather androgynous Miss Liberty faces left, curly hair flowing to her shoulders, wearing a fillet with LIBERTY in relief. The date is centered at the bottom and 13 stars surround her. The reverse, very similar to its predecessor, has an eagle with spread wings, the Union shield superimposed on its chest, holding an olive branch and three arrows. The denomination is centered at the bottom, and the legend surrounds the eagle. A major change was the elimination of the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.
One result of rising gold prices was for coins to be worth more as bullion than as coins. Vast quantities of coins were exported and melted, and thus disappeared from circulation. To get gold coins back into use, Congress mandated a 6% reduction in the amount of gold in U.S. coins. A change had to be implemented quickly, as the lack of circulating gold coins was doing harm to Americans and the economy. Instead of going through the time-consuming process of creating an entirely new design, Mint Engraver William Kneass adapted John Reich’s 1808 Large Cent obverse – and a rather strange design it is. Miss Liberty looks very much like a young man or boy from the time of the ancient Greeks. The fillet bearing LIBERTY was an award worn by Greek boys who were winners of local athletic contests. Females never wore such a ribbon. However, time constraints forced the Mint into quick action, and this happened to be Kneass’ remedy. Although the reverse of Classic Head Half Eagles is very similar to the one found on the Capped Bust Type, this reverse does not have the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM present. This change was one way to signify the new, lower gold content of the coin.
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