Coin, United States, Coronet Head
$5 - Half Eagle - 1881 - San Francisco
Coronet head, left, within circle of stars
IN GOD WE TRUST above eagle
- Composition: Gold
- Country: United States
- Mint name: San Francisco
- Denomination: $5, Half Eagle
- Year: 1881
- Product type: Coin
- Catalog Initials: KM
- Fineness: 0.90000000000000002
- Coinage Type: Circulation Coinage
- Theoretical Coin Weight Entire (gr): 8.359
- Actual Weight Entire (oz): 0.2419
- First Issue Date: 1881
- Period: 1881
- Coin name: Coronet Head
- Mintage: 5708802
- KM: 101
Although nowadays gold enjoys a reputation as the king of precious metals, that was not always the case. For example, in Ancient Greece, Corinthian bronze was widely considered to be superior. However, over the course of time, it has established itself as the prince of money, even though it frequently vies with silver for the top spot as the standard.
Nevertheless, there are other metals which appear to be even more precious than this duo, take for example rhodium and platinum. That is certain. Yet, if the ore is not as available, how can money be produced in sufficient quantities? It is therefore a matter of striking a subtle balance between rarity and availability.
But it gets better: gold is not only virtually unreactive, whatever the storage conditions (and trouser pockets are hardly the most precious of storage cases), but also malleable (coins and engravers appreciate that).
It thus represents the ideal mix for striking coins without delay – and we were not going to let it slip away!
The chemical symbol for gold is Au, which derives from its Latin name aurum. Its origins are probably extraterrestrial, effectively stardust released following a violent collision between two neutron stars. Not merely precious, but equally poetic…
The first gold coins were minted by the kings of Lydia, probably between the 8th and 6th century BC. Whereas nowadays the only gold coins minted are investment coins (bullion coins) or part of limited-edition series aimed at collectors, that was not always the case. And gold circulated extensively from hand to hand and from era to era, from the ancient gold deposits of the River Pactolus to the early years of the 20th century.
As a precious metal, in the same way as silver, gold is used for minting coins with intrinsic value, which is to say the value of which is constituted by the metal from which they are made. Even so, nowadays, the value to the collector frequently far exceeds that of the metal itself...
It should be noted that gold, which is naturally very malleable, is frequently supplemented with small amounts of other metals to render it harder.
The millesimal fineness (or alloy) of a coin indicates the exact proportion (in parts per thousand) of gold included in the composition. We thus speak, for example, of 999‰ gold or 999 parts of gold per 1 part of other metals. This measure is important for investment coins such as bullion. In France, it was expressed in carats until 1995.
United States of America
- Geographical location: North America
- Current political regime: Constitutional republic with presidential and federal regime
- Current capital: Washington, D.C.
From the exploration of the territory by various European countries from the 16th century to the 13 colonies behind the founding of the country at the end of the 18th century, there were Spanish expeditions to the South, encounters and negotiations with the local Native Americans – sometimes peaceful, sometimes far less so – French settlements in New France on the Northeast coast and beside the Mississippi, Dutch and English in the East, Russians in the West…a disparate patchwork which would prefigure the future materializing little by little. Ultimately, it was the British who would carve out the lion’s share for themselves first of all and drive the Dutch and French out of the East and North of the territory.
The Thirteen Colonies extending all along the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia, quickly shook off the yoke of the British administrative supervision and proclaimed their independence in 1776. The American Revolutionary War, led with France as an ally (did anyone say revenge?), was finally won in 1783. The separation from Canada, which remained loyal to the Crown, was enacted, and the brand new country drew up a constitution.
Next, an unprecedented period of territorial expansion westward began. In 1803, Louisiana was purchased from the French. Further territories were also ceded by Spain, for example Florida. In 1848, the Mexican-American War permitted them to annex the Southwestern United States. This expansion was largely to the detriment of the indigenous tribes, despoiled of their lands and sometimes simply massacred by the army as in the case of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.
In the mid-19th century, there were three sets of territories in the United States: the Northeast with its urban tendencies and on the road to industrialization; the South with its plantations and system based on slavery; and the still wild West. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, an opponent to slavery, was elected president and seven Southern states, a little later eleven, decided to secede from the Union. The resulting American Civil War lasted from 1861 until 1865. It concluded with the abolition of slavery and victory for the Union.
In 1912, the admission of Arizona and New Mexico to the Union brought the intraterritorial expansion to an end. The United States were complete. In the 20th century, following a frantic race to industrialization and an exponential dynamic thanks to immigration, the U.S. established its status as a world power by joining the Triple Entente in 1917.
Then came the roaring twenties and prohibition, followed by the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, World War II, and, in the 1950s, global influence, consumer society, and the advent of the middle classes. Not to forget the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. The 50s (finally) saw an end to segregation. But it would not be without problems. In the 1960s, the Baptist minister Martin Luther King fought for equal rights, before being assassinated in 1968.
The first Catholic president would never have expected it – John Fitzgerald Kennedy lost his life, assassinated in Dallas in 1963. He was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson, who spearheaded a campaign on the war on poverty. However, it was another war that reared its ugly head: the Vietnam War. Not long after, the Watergate scandal besmirched the reputation of both the White House and President Nixon. Closer to the present day came another war, the War in Afghanistan, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Then Iraq.
In 2008, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States of America.
In the 17th century, the monetary system in the Thirteen Colonies was quite unstable. Too poor for an exclusive monetary system, the reference therefore remained for the most part, under the influence of Great Britain, the pound sterling, the shilling, and the penny, even though there were multiple currencies in circulation.
During the American Revolutionary War, bills of credit, (paper money in dollars which could not be converted to silver) were issued. In 1779, Congress introduced the Continental dollar. At the time, the word dollar referred to a Spanish peso or piece of eight coin. It is therefore possible that the dollar symbol derives from there and represents a graphic distortion of the number 8.
From 1787, only Congress retained the right to mint coins and define their value. Federal banks had the right to issue paper money on the condition that it be convertible to metal currency upon request.
The Coinage Act, passed in 1792, brought with it clarity. The unit of currency was officially the dollar ($), based on a bimetallic (gold and silver) system and a decimal system for its subdivision into cents. One dollar at that time was worth 371.25 grains of silver and 24.75 grains of pure gold. The coins were minted by the Mint of Philadelphia (The Mint).
The quotation on gold and silver fluctuated over time. The first “greenback” was issued in 1861. Some banknotes issued by the federal banks proved to be inconvertible, while others, such as the silver certificates, could still be converted into silver. Over the course of time, this confusion regarding the convertibility of the banknotes would give rise to a number of banking panics. 1913 saw the creation of the Federal Reserve System (Fed), the central bank charged with regulating the circulation of currency on the basis of a gold standard.
The dollar remains the currency of the United States up to the present day. There are 1 dollar, half dollar (50 cents), quarter (25 cents), dime (10 cents), nickel (5 cents) and cent (1 cent) coins available. In addition, there are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills in circulation.
Among other things, the U.S. Americans invented the lightning rod (Benjamin Franklin, 1752), bourbon (Eliza Craig, 1789), the revolver (Samuel Colt, 1835), the telegram (Samuel Morse, 1844), the telephone (Graham Bell, 1874), the phonograph (Edison, 1878), the zipper (Judson, 1891), and even Tupperware (Earl Tupper, 1945).
Painting: "View of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C." by A. Meyer (1860)
An “AU(50-53)” quality
As in numismatics, it is important that the state of conservation of an item be carefully evaluated before it is offered to a discerning collector with a keen eye.
This initially obscure acronym comprising two words describing the state of conservation is explained clearly here:
This means – more prosaically – that the coin has circulated well from hand to hand and pocket to pocket but the impact on its wear remains limited: the coins displays sharp detailing and little sign of being circulated. The number (50-53) indicates that at least half of the original luster remains. Closer examination with the naked eye reveals minor scratches or nicks.
You might be wondering why there are different ranges of numbers behind the same abbreviation. Well, we’ll explain:
The numbers are subdivisions within a category, showing that the state of conversation is the same but coins may be at the higher or lower end of the scale. In the case of AU, the range (55-58) indicates that the luster is better preserved in than a similar coin described as (50-53).