James Barton Longacre, the designer of the "Indian Head" cent, used his daughter Sarah as his model for Liberty wearing an Indian headdress. In 1859, the first year that this cent coin was minted, the reverse had a wreath of laurel. Just one year later in 1860, a Federal shield was added to the reverse and the wreath of laurel was changed to a wreath of oak.
The Indian Head cent was replaced by the Lincoln cent in 1909 to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States during the Civil War. This cent coin was very controversial, as it was the first coin to bear the likeness of someone who had actually lived. All coins that had come before had female depictions of Liberty. After all, the First Coinage Act of 1792 required that "there shall be an impression emblematic of Liberty." The designer of the coin, Victor David Brenner, defended the likeness of Lincoln arguing that Abraham Lincoln was the "human embodiment of Liberty." In 1959, on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the wheat ears on the reverse were changed to the Lincoln Memorial. If you look very closely, you can see the seated statue of Lincoln in the memorial, which means that this is the only United States coin with the same person on both sides of the same coin!
In 1883, a new 5-cent piece was struck with the female likeness of Liberty on the obverse and a "V" (Roman numeral 5) on the reverse. What was missing was the word "cents." Dishonest people took advantage of this oversight and gold-plated the nickels trying to pass them off as 5-dollar gold coins! The nickname "Racketeer Nickel" was given to this coin. The word "cents" was added to the reverse late in 1883, so both types of coins were minted that year.
James Fraser used three different Indian Chiefs as models to create the composite profile on the obverse of the Indian Head Nickel (also called the Buffalo nickel). The three Indian models were Chief John Big Tree, a Seneca; Chief Two Moons, a Cheyenne; and Chief Iron Tail, a Sioux. The buffalo on the reverse was modeled after a bison called "Black Diamond" which lived in the New York zoo.
Felix Schlag won an award of $1,000 in a competition with 390 artists for his design of the five-cent piece that honors Thomas Jefferson, who was the author of the Declaration of dependence and third President of the United States. The reverse depicts Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. From 1942 through 1945, because of nickel shortages during World War II, the Jefferson "nickel" was made without any nickel at all. It was composed of copper (56%), silver (35%), and manganese (9%). To indicate the change in the metal, the mint marks were made much larger and placed directly above the dome of Monticello.
Charles Barber used the same likeness of Liberty, a woman facing right wearing a soft leather cap called a Phrygian slave’s cap, crowned with a laurel wreath. In ancient Greece, slaves who had been granted their freedom wore the Phrygian slave’s cap, therefore it is a symbol of freedom. Crowns of laurel were placed upon the heads of athletes and soldiers who were victorious, therefore it is a symbol of victory over tyranny. The reverse has a spray of American agricultural crops including corn, cotton, tobacco, and wheat.
Although commonly called the "Mercury Dime," the obverse actually bears the female likeness of Liberty wearing a Phrygian slave’s cap with wings symbolizing freedom of thought. In Greek mythology, Mercury was male and had wings on his feet that made him very fast. Adolph Weinman designed this coin and included a fasces on the reverse. The fasces is a bundle of rods which is an ancient Roman symbol of authority and represents strength in unity. Individually the rods can easily be broken, but united they are nearly impossible to break.
John Sinnock designed the dime that honors Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 and the coin was put into circulation just a few months later on January 30, 1946 (FDR’s birthday). The reverse bears a bundle of rods with a flaming torch, symbolizing the eternal flame of freedom. On the left of the torch is a sprig of laurel (victory) and on the right a sprig of oak (strength).
Designed by Charles Barber using the same female likeness of Liberty as he did on the dime and half-dollar. The reverse depicts a "heraldic" bald eagle with a Union shield on its breast. In its beak the eagle holds a scroll with the motto, E Pluribus Unum which means "one unity composed of many parts." Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams originally selected this motto in 1776 when they were charged with designing the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle holds a bundle of 13 arrows in its left talon and an olive branch with 13 leaves in its right talon. There are also 13 stars above the head of the eagle. All of these references to the number 13 are symbolic of the 13 original colonies. The eagle is looking in the direction of the olive branch and away from the arrows in a gesture symbolic of America’s desire for peace over war.
Hermon MacNeil designed the Standing Liberty Quarter at a time when America was not yet involved in World War I. That’s why the obverse of the coin bears a standing likeness of Liberty with a raised shield in her left hand (symbolic of America’s ability to defend itself) and an olive branch in her right hand (symbolic of a desire for peace over war). In 1917, after just one year of production, the Standing Liberty Quarter was modified to "put more clothes on Lady Liberty" fitting her with a chain-mail slipover. The model for Liberty was a beautiful, 22 year old woman named Dora Doscher who stood five-feet, four-inches tall. She also posed for the statue of the goddess Diana that stands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The reverse of the coin bears an eagle in flight which some ornithologists say has "the head of a hawk, the wings of an eagle, and the body of a dove."
In 1932, the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth was commemorated by the issuance of the Washington Quarter which was designed by John Flanagan. The Washington Quarter replaced the Standing Liberty Quarter which had been in circulation for only fifteen years. Normally, a coin must circulate for at least 25 years before it can be replaced. But a special act of Congress dated March 4, 1931, authorized the issuance of the Washington Quarter Dollar. The reverse displays a "heraldic" bald eagle standing on a bundle of arrows (reminiscent of the fasces) above two laurel branches. In 1975 and 1976, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the United States, the reverse was changed to depict a Colonial drummer with a victory torch encircled by 13 stars. That’s why this type of Washington Quarter is nicknamed the "Drummer Boy" quarter. Beginning in 1999 and continuing for 10 years, 5 states per year will be featured on the reverse of the Washington quarter in the order of admission to the Union!
Designed by Charles Barber using the same devices on both the obverse and reverse as the quarter dollar that he also designed which circulated from 1892 - 1916.
Designed by Adolph Weinman, the same person who designed the "Mercury" Dime, the Liberty Walking Half Dollar is considered to be one of the most beautiful U.S. coins. The obverse design continues to be used today on American silver bullion coins (coins that are bought and sold for their intrinsic metal value). The obverse depicts Liberty dressed in an American flag and wearing a Phrygian slave’s cap. In her left arm she cradles branches of laurel and oak. Her right arm is outstretched in the direction of the rising sun. The reverse depicts an American bald eagle perched on a mountain ledge with a pine sapling (an early symbol of "Young America") in its right talon. Another nickname for this coin is "Walker" half dollar.
Designed by John Sinnock (who also designed the Roosevelt dime), the Franklin Half-Dollar features a profile bust of Benjamin Franklin. The profile bust was the work of Jean-Antoine Houdon, a French artist who also created the bust of George Washington which was used on the Washington Quarter. The reverse of the coin features the Liberty Bell and a small eagle. The small eagle is in respect to Franklin’s opposition to the eagle as the symbol of America. Franklin did not like the idea of a bird of prey representing a country that stood for liberty and peace. He suggested the turkey as a bird more worthy of the honor. A closer look at the Liberty Bell yields the name "Pass and Stow," the firm that repaired the bell in 1753 after it was damaged in shipment.
Gilroy Roberts designed the obverse and Frank Gasparro designed the reverse of the coin that honors John Fitzgerald Kennedy. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and the coin was put into circulation just a few months later in 1964. JFK’s likeness appears on the obverse and the seal of the President of the United States appears on the reverse. In 1975 and 1976, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the United States, the reverse was changed to Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Designed by George Morgan, the "Morgan" dollar was put into circulation in 1878. It was minted every year from 1878 through 1904, and then it wasn’t minted again until 1921, a gap of 17 years! The obverse bears a female likeness of Liberty wearing a Phrygian slave’s cap with a spray of wheat and cotton. On the reverse is an eagle holding an olive branch in its right talon and three arrows in its left talon. The model for Liberty was Anna Williams who was a philosophy instructor in a school near the Philadelphia Mint.
An Italian immigrant named Anthony DeFrancisci designed the "Peace" dollar using his wife, Teresa Cafarelli (also an immigrant from Italy) as the model for Liberty. On the obverse is a stylized version of the head of the Statue of Liberty. The reverse bears the likeness of an eagle with folded wings perched on a ledge. The eagle is at "peace" with an olive branch in its talons. This coin was issued to commemorate the termination of hostilities between the United States and Germany after World War I. The Peace Dollar was minted from 1921 through 1935, and then no more dollar coins were made until 1971, a gap of 36 years!
Frank Gasparro designed this coin which commemorates President and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II, Dwight David Eisenhower and the first landing on the moon. The obverse bears the profile bust of Eisenhower. The reverse is an adaptation of the official insignia for the Apollo 11 mission that resulted in the first American astronauts on the moon on July 19, 1969. They landed on July 19, but Neil Armstrong did not step onto the moon until July 20… that’s when he said "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!". In 1975 and 1976, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the United States, the reverse was changed to depict the Liberty Bell superimposed on the moon.
Frank Gasparro, the same person who designed the Eisenhower Dollar, was commissioned in 1978 to design a new dollar coin to honor a pioneer in women’s rights, Susan B. Anthony. Susan Brownell Anthony was a leader in the Suffrage Movement which worked to give American women the right to vote (which was granted with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, in 1920, 16 years after Anthony died in 1906). The reverse is the same as the Eisenhower Dollar (an adaptation of the official insignia for the Apollo 11 mission).
Also known as the "Coronet Type Quarter Eagle," this gold coin was designed by Christian Gobrecht. This coin bears the female likeness of Liberty wearing a coronet or small crown on the obverse and an eagle with outstretched wings on the reverse. A Union shield covers the breast of the eagle; three arrows are in the left talon and an olive branch is in the right talon.
This "Quarter Eagle" gold coin was the first intaglio or incuse design and represented a new approach for American coins. Intaglio or incuse means that the design is "pushed" into the surface of the coin so that the highest point of the design is equal to the plane of the coin. The headdress worn by the Indian Chief on the obverse is considered the most realistic in comparison to other Indian Head designs. On the reverse is an eagle with folded wings perched on a bundle of arrows and an olive branch. Bela Lyons Pratt designed this coin.
Also known as a "Coronet Type Half Eagle," this gold coin was designed by Christian Gobrecht using the same devices on both the obverse and reverse as the Quarter Eagle that he also designed which circulated from 1840 - 1907.
This "Half Eagle" gold coin was designed by Bela Lyons Pratt and used the same designs for both obverse and reverse as the Indian Head $2.50 coin.
Also known as an "Coronet Type Eagle," this gold coin was designed by Christian Gobrecht using the same devices on both the obverse and reverse as both the Quarter Eagle and the Half Eagle that he also designed.
This "Eagle" gold coin was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, considered by many to be the one of the finest modern sculptors. He was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt to redesign what many called "boring" American coinage. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and his understudy Adolph Weinman, designed the coins which are still considered the most beautiful of all American coins. Specifically, the Indian Head $10 Gold and the Liberty Head $20 Gold (Saint-Gaudens); the Winged Head Liberty ("Mercury") Dime and the Liberty Walking Half Dollar (Weinman).
Also known as the "Coronet Type Double Eagle," this gold coin was designed by James Longacre, who also designed the Indian Head Cent. The Double Eagle is the greatest American coin in both size and value. The model for the female likeness of Liberty on the obverse was Longacre’s daughter Sarah who also posed as the "Indian Princess" on the Indian Head Cent. The reverse bears a "heraldic" eagle with a Federal shield on its breast, arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right talon. There are also beautiful scrolls and rays that decorate the reverse.
This "Double Eagle" gold coin was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens who also designed Indian Head $10 Gold which also circulated from 1907 - 1933. This magnificent coin is considered by many to be the most beautiful American coin ever minted. The obverse design continues to be used today on American gold bullion coins (coins that are bought and sold for their intrinsic metal value). The obverse depicts Lady Liberty standing with her left foot on a higher level than her right. In her right hand she holds a torch and in her left she holds an olive branch. She is dressed in a flowing robe with nearly waist-length hair. Behind her are the rays of a rising sun and in the lower left, the United States Capitol’s dome is visible. On the reverse is an eagle in free flight against the background of a rising sun.