Capped Bust Coinage

The Capped Bust design, created by Philadelphia Mint engraver William Kneass, was featured on seven different United States coin denominations. The motif was first unveiled in 1809 and lasted until 1839. At the time, it was the longest-lasting United States coinage design; prior motifs tended to only last a few years at a time. The design was not only popular among the generic public, but it was also relatively easy to produce. Whereas earlier designs were difficult to execute with an even and complete strike, Capped Bust coins were usually well-made.

While there was some minor variation from denomination to denomination, the Capped Bust coins have the same basic design elements. The obverse shows a female portrait of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap. This soft, conical cap was associated with freedom from slavery. As a young nation, the United States was still proud of its newfound independence from Great Britain – and the unprecedented freedom afforded to its citizens. At the obverse’s periphery are 13 stars to honor the original 13 colonies plus the coin’s date at 6:00.

An eagle adorns the reverse, along with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the coin’s denomination. The eagle is grasping both an olive branch and a bundle of arrows; these represent America’s desire for peace combined with its ability to defend itself. Clearly, William Kneass looked for every opportunity to incorporate symbolism.

Capped Bust silver coins can be relatively affordable. Collectors can buy Half Dimes, Dimes, Quarters and Half Dollars of this design for a few hundred dollars or less. While there are some very rare dates in these series, most issues are quite common and reasonably priced. A popular set is to acquire one example of each of the four silver denominations. In grades like Extremely Fine, this four-coin set can be assembled for under $2000.

The Capped Bust gold coins, however, are much rarer and more valuable.

  • Posted on October 10, 2016
  • By TPM
  • General

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.


In the early 1970s, rising prices of copper forced the US Mint to consider alternative metals for the one cent coin. The Mint was spending more than one cent to produce each one cent,...
The economic turmoil of the Civil War drove most small-denomination coinage out of circulation. Even one cent coins were hoarded, perhaps because they were the only remaining...
In the early 20th century, the US Mint frequently issued commemorative coins (usually half dollars) on behalf of various organizations to raise funds for a specific project. But...
2016 full-year gold demand gained 2% to reach a 3-year high of 4,308.7t. Annual inflows into ETFs reached 531.9t, the second highest on record. Declines in jewellery and central...