Every coin may be considered a piece of history. Hold a coin and it can remind you of some aspect of American history. But some coins have such a story to tell, it almost speaks to you.
The 1792 half disme appeals to numismatists and non-collectors as well. These coins were struck before the new Philadelphia Mint was even completed, using silver supplied by President George Washington. It is said that Martha Washington was the model for the Liberty head on the obverse.
The reverse depicts a small eagle, a fledgling perhaps, a fitting emblem for the new country – the United States. The design is rather quaint, with a motto not used after 1792: “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry.” Only 1,500 or so were struck, with a few hundred surviving today. Many are worn, but a few exist in Mint State. This coin is a product of the early years of the country, the Mint, and its coinage.
Jump many years forward to the Civil War years. The 1861-D gold dollar was struck at Dahlonega, Ga., after the Mint was seized by Rebel troops. The obverse bears the name “United States of America” but more accurately, it should read “Confederate States of America.” Only 1,250 or so were struck, most bearing mushy lettering and details, as many Dahlonega gold coins do. Less than a hundred are known, with a good number in higher grades, indicating the coins were saved.
The 1861-O half dollar shows a total mintage of over 2.5 million, but only 330,000 were struck under the United States government. The remainder was struck for the State of Louisiana and the Confederate States. Four Confederate half dollars were struck in 1861, using the familiar Seated Liberty obverse and a completely different reverse. Years later, 500 genuine 1861 half dollars with the reverse design shaved off were restruck by New York coin dealer J.W. Scott using the Confederate States reverse die.