No Motto $5 and $10 Gold Coins
In 1866, as the United States was reeling from the effects of the Civil War, Congress authorized using the motto “In God We Trust” on America’s coinage. It was a reflection of the country’s mood and tone; the atrocities of the war deeply affected the American psyche. The United States became more religiously-minded – and our coinage mirrored this fact.
From a numismatic standpoint, America’s $5 and $10 gold coins are divided into two major categories: No Motto and With Motto dates. The pre-1866 No Motto issues are substantially rarer than their With Motto counterparts. Exactly how much scarcer? Of all 1839-1908 $5 Half Eagles graded by NGC, just 9% are No Motto. In other words, No Motto Half Eagles are approximately 11x rarer.
The stats are even more extreme for the 1838-1907 $10 Eagle. Fewer than 5% of all $10 Gold Eagles are of the No Motto variety, making them 20x rarer than the With Motto version. These figures do not take into account the fact that many With Motto $5s and $10s have not been certified. In actuality, No Motto $5 and $10 pieces are probably more like 15-30x rarer than their With Motto counterparts.
Studying the NGC population reports revels another interesting fact. 88% of all No Motto Half Eagles certified by NGC are circulated, while 96% (!) of all No Motto Eagles were assigned circulated grades. That is, finding a No Motto $5 or $10 in Uncirculated is a wildly difficult feat. The overwhelming majority of pre-Civil War Half Eagles and Eagles are well-worn and show obvious signs of circulation.
Despite the extreme rarity of the pre-Civil War No Motto $5s and $10s, they remain surprisingly affordable in today’s marketplace. Problem-free lightly circulated No Motto Half Eagles usually trade for $450-$600 in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated condition. As for No Motto $10 Eagles, lightly circulated specimens sell in the $950-$1300 range.
The most common No Motto $5 Half Eagle is the 1861 issue. Approximately 1200-1300 pieces are known, including a small number of beautiful Gem specimens. One coin, in fact, was certified by PCGS at the lofty grade level of MS67. Among No Motto $10 Eagles, dates like 1852 and 1853 are the most frequently encountered. Regardless of date, it is virtually impossible to find No Motto $10s above MS64. Being larger coins, $10 Eagles were much more likely to pick up marks and abrasions – and thus well-preserved specimens are extremely rare.