1866 Liberty Head $5 Half Eagle
1866 Liberty Head $5 half eagle gold coins were struck at the Philadelphia and San Francisco (S) mints. The Charlotte, Dahlonega, and (temporarily) New Orleans mints, historically production facilities for the half eagle, stopped striking federal coins in after the start of the Civil War. Thus, the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints were the only mints striking half eagles at the time.
1866 was an especially important year for Liberty Head half eagles and, really, U.S. coinage in general. Part way through the year, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the design of several U.S. coins, not only heralding a new era for the nation’s coinage but also creating two distinct coin varieties for affected series that year. In the case of the Liberty Head half eagle, the motto was added on the reverse along a ribbon floating above the eagle.
Here’s a look at the mintages and values of 1866 $5 Liberty Head half eagle gold coins:
1866 no motto, 9,000 minted; $1,700
1866 motto, 6,700; $750
1866-S motto, 34,920; $925
1866 proof, 30; $27,500
*Values are for coins grading Very Fine 20 unless otherwise stated.
The mintage figures listed above don’t reflect the number of surviving coins today, which certainly are much scarcer than production numbers would probably suggest. All 1866 $5 half eagles are considerably scarce and are therefore much more valuable as numismatic coins than bullion coins. The allure for some bullion investors may be the fact that 1866 half eagles contain a net total of 0.24187 ounces pure gold per coin. Still, numismatic premiums are much higher than the value of the intrinsic gold content. An interesting footnote for coin collectors is that Christian Gobrecht designed 1866 Liberty Head $5 gold coins. He also designed Seated Liberty silver coinage of the 19th century.