The history of United States $5 Gold Half Eagle Coins begins in 1795, when the U.S. Mint first introduced them as part of the country’s fledgling monetary system. The coins were minted in various designs and underwent several changes over the years. The first $5 Gold Half Eagle Coins were struck in 1795 and featured a depiction of Liberty on the obverse, facing to the right and wearing a turban-like cap. The reverse depicted an eagle with spread wings and a shield on its breast, surrounded by a wreath.
In 1807, the design was updated to feature a new rendition of Liberty known as the “Capped Bust” design, created by renowned engraver John Reich. This design featured a more mature and classical depiction of Liberty on the obverse, with a capped bust facing left. The reverse design remained the same, with an eagle and shield motif. In 1839, the design was updated again, this time by Christian Gobrecht. The obverse featured a portrait of Liberty in profile, facing left, wearing a coronet with the word “LIBERTY” inscribed on it. The reverse design was also changed to depict an eagle in flight, holding a wreath and arrows in its talons. During the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, many gold coins, including the $5 Gold Half Eagle, were hoarded or melted due to the economic turmoil of the time. As a result, mintages of these coins were relatively low during this period.
In 1908, the design of the $5 Gold Half Eagle Coins underwent a major change with the introduction of the “Indian Head” design by Bela Lyon Pratt. This design featured a Native American chief in headdress on the obverse, and an eagle standing on a bundle of arrows and an olive branch on the reverse. The $5 Gold Half Eagle Coins continued to be minted with the Indian Head design until 1929, when the production of gold coins for circulation was halted due to the Great Depression. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order prohibiting the hoarding of gold and recalled all gold coins, including the $5 Gold Half Eagle, from circulation.
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