A country’s coinage is more than just a practical means of exchanging value; it’s an opportunity for a nation to express its heritage and artistic talent. With that in mind, the United States has long desired to make its money beautiful, symbolic and interesting. It’s debatable as to which designs are the most attractive, but this article will touch upon several that receive high marks for their appearance.
The silver Walking Liberty Half Dollar, struck from 1916 through 1947, is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful silver coin designs. To many, the obverse image of Lady Liberty striding against the sunset almost appears to be in motion. While it was sometimes difficult to strike, the design has always been considered one of the prettiest to adorn a circulating coin. It’s no surprise that this motif returned again in 1986; it was reintroduced on the American silver dollar.
The Saint Gaudens Double Eagle has a similar story to the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Like its silver cousin, it was a gorgeous design that was challenging to mass-produce. The original design, crafted by noted sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens in 1907, had to be dramatically revised due to technical obstacles. After numerous revisions, the United States Mint found a way of preserving Saint Gaudens’ main design elements without sacrificing production speed. Also like the “Walker” half dollar, the $20 Saint Gaudens motif was resurrected in 1986 for the gold eagle series. It also reappeared on the immensely popular 2009 “Ultra High Relief” gold commemorative coin.
Collectors have also celebrated the Morgan silver dollar, which was struck from 1878 through 1921. This big, beautiful silver coin features a highly intricate portrait of Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. The engraving itself is quite attractive, but the Morgan dollar is also well-known for having strong, booming luster. Perhaps unintentionally, the design’s metal flow creates intense “cartwheel” luster that makes the coins flash.
The $10 Indian Eagle is another perennial favorite. Like the $20 “Saint,” this gold coin was also engraved by famed sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. The obverse displays an Indian princess wearing an elaborate headdress, which art historians note is actually historically inaccurate. Such a headdress was usually worn by male Indian warriors, not female princesses, but that hasn’t hurt the coin’s popularity. Furthermore, the radial layout of the feathers makes the coin appear that it has luster even when it’s been heavily worn. Therefore, both in Uncirculated and lower grades, the coin retains an extremely attractive appearance.