It ultimately took two separate Congressional Acts, that by 1838, adjusted the content and fineness of U.S. gold coins enough to allow them to remain in circulation. Mint Director Robert M. Patterson was instructed to produce eagles, and Acting Engraver Christian Gobrecht, replacing the ailing William Kneass, prepared dies for a new design.
Gobrecht's design, inspired by the portrait of Venus in Benjamin West's Painting Omnia Vincit Amor (Love Conquers All), also became the prototype for the half-eagle and large cent of 1839. It features a bust of Liberty facing left, wearing a coronet inscribed LIBERTY. Her hair is knotted in the back with hang- ing curls. Thirteen stars encircle the bust, with the date positioned below. The reverse depicts an eagle holding an olive branch and arrows, surrounded by the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TEN D. Mintmarks are below the eagle.
The first coins, those of 1838 and early 1839, are distinctly different than subsequent issues: Each has Liberty's shoulder line sharply pointed and positioned between the twelfth and thirteenth star. In the fall of 1839, Gobrecht reworked the bust and centered it over the date. This design-with the exception of the added motto in 1866-remained basically unchanged until the end of the Coronet series in 1907, when it was replaced by Augustus Saint Gaudens' Indian Head motif.
There was little demand for the large coin in everyday use, thus the mintage of the new Coronet eagles (identified colloquially by collectors today as "No Motto Ten-Libs") was limited. By the 1850's, when economic conditions improved, demand for the eagles remained low, since half eagles were preferred in day-to-day commerce, and the new double eagles were used in bank transfers and international transactions.
Struck in Philadelphia (no mint mark) every year of the series, No Motto eagles were also minted in New Orleans (O) from 1841 through 1860, and in San Francisco (S) from 1854 through 1866.
No Motto eagles are not difficult to grade. Look for traces of wear on the top of the coronet over Liberty's forehead, on the top of her hair and just over her eye. On the reverse, check the tips of the eagle's wings, neck and claws. Unfortunately, well made twentieth century counterfeits exist. Originally made in the Middle East as a way of producing bullion in a recognizable form, many have found their way into the numismatic market. The very rare 1858 Philadelphia issue has also been counterfeited, usually by removing the mint marks from San Francisco or New Orleans coins of that year. Authentication of any questionable piece is highly recommended.
The Coronet eagle continued to be minted until 1907 with only one major change to the design. The carnage of the Civil War and the terrible upheaval that followed found the population of the country in a religious and philosophical mood. A desire to nationally express this feeling led to the addition of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to U.S. coins. First used on the two-cent piece of 1864, the motto was added to the Coronet eagle in 1866, inscribed on a ribbon over the eagle's head.
Diameter: 27 millimeters
Weight: 16.718 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper
Net Weight: .48375 oz pure gold
Akers, David W., United States Gold Coins, Volume V, Eagles 1795-1933, Paramount Publications, Englewood, OH, 1980.
Breen, Walter, United States Eagles, Hewitt Printing Corporation, Chicago.
Breen, Walter, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, F.C.I. Doubleday, New York, 1988.
Garraty, John A., The Columbia History Of The World, Harper & Row, New York, 1972.
Metcalf, William E., America's Gold Coinage, Metallic Panaceas: Gold Bugs, Silver Crusaders, and the Wizard of Oz, ANS, New York, 1989.
Winter, Douglas, New Orleans Mint Gold Coins 1839-1909, Bowers & Merena Galleries, Wolfeboro, NH, 1992.
Coin Stories and Photo's are courtesy Numismatic Guarantee Corp. (NGC) and are used with permission.
LIBERTY HEAD (NO MOTTO ON REVERSE) $10 OR EAGLE (1838-1866)