Classic Head Half Cent (1809-1836)

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by Q. David Bowers

The so-called Classic Head design by John Reich made its appearance on half cents in 1809, postdating by one year its debut in the large cent series. A somewhat related motif, by William Kneass, was used years later on the $2.50 and $5 gold coins of 1834.

Miss Liberty faces left. Her hair is in curls, close to her head, and is secured by a band inscribed LIBERTY. Seven stars are to the left and six to the right. The date is below.

It is not known exactly where the Classic Head originated. Its nearest possible prototype is Polykleitos' Diadoumenos or "Athlete Tying the Fillet" (Breen). However, it is curious that the Greek youth tying the fillet - a ribbon signifying victory and worn only by boy athletes - would have been a prototype for Liberty who is traditionally a female goddess.

The reverse consists of a continuous wreath tied at the bottom with a ribbon, enclosing HALF CENT at the center, with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the border.

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