Half Eagle Gold Pieces

The half eagle was the first gold coin actually struck for the United States. The $5.00 piece was authorized to be coined by the Act of April 2, 1792, and the first type weighed 135 grains, 916 2/3 fine. The Act of June 28, 1834 changed the weight to 129 grains, 899.225 fine. Fineness became .900 by the Act of January 18, 1837.

There are many varieties among the early dates caused by changes in the number of stars, style of eagle, overdates, and differences in the size of the figures in the dates. Those dated prior to 1807 do not bear any mark of value. The 1822 half eagle is considered the most valuable regular issue coin of the entire United States series. Proofs of some dates prior to 1855 are know to exist, and all are rare. Commemorative and Bullion $5 coins have been made at West Point since 1986 and 1994 respectively, thus this is the only U.S. denomination made at each of the eight mints.

1. CAPPED BUST TO RIGHT, SMALL EAGLE 1795-1798

This type was struck from mid-1795 to early 1798, when the small eagle reverse was changed to the large or “heraldic” eagle. Note that the 1795 and 1797 dates exist for both types, but the heraldic reverses of these dates were probably struck under emergency conditions in late 1798.

Designer: Robert Scot
Weight; 8.75 grams
Composition: .9167 gold, .0833 silver and copper, approx.
Diameter: 25mm
Reeded edge

2. CAPPED BUST TO RIGHT, HERALDIC EAGLE 1798-1807

Standards same as previous issue.

3. CAPPED BUST TO LEFT 1807-1812

Designer: John Reich. Standards same as previous issue.

4. CAPPED HEAD TO LEFT (Large Diameter) 1813-1829

Standards same as previous issue. Diameter approx. 26.5mm.

5. CAPPED HEAD TO LEFT (Reduced Diameter) 1829-1834

The half eagles dated 1829 (small date) through 1834 are smaller in diameter than the earlier pieces. They also have smaller letters, dates and stars.

Standards as before. Modified design by William Kneass. Diameter 23.8mm.

6. CLASSIC HEAD TYPE 1834-1838

As on the quarter eagle of 1834, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM was omitted from the new, reduced size of the half eagle in 1834, to distinguish the old coins which had become worth more than face value.

Designer; William Kneass
Weight: 8.36 grams
Composition: .8992 gold, .1008 silver and copper, changed to .900 gold in 1837
Diameter: 22.5 mm
Reeded edge
Mints: Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dahlonega

7. CORONET TYPE, No Motto Above Eagle 1839-1866

Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Weight: 8.359 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper
Diameter: (1839-1840) 22.5mm. (1840-1929) 21.6mm
Reeded edge
Net weight: .24187 oz. pure gold

8. Variety 2 – Motto Above Eagle 1866-1908

Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Weight: 8.359 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper
Diameter: 21.6mm
Reeded edge
Mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco
Net weight: .24187 oz. pure gold

9. INDIAN HEAD TYPE 1908-1929

This Indian type half-eagle conforms to the quarter eagle of the same date. The sunken (incuse) designs and lettering make these two series unique in our United States coinage.

Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Weight: 8.359 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper
Diameter: 21.6 mm
Reeded edge
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco
Net weight: .24187 oz. pure gold