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I. R. Bama's Blog

17 Jul 2020

The Phrygian Cap: Seldom Discussed Symbols On U.S. Coins in Numismatics.

Coins | I. R. Bama

An important but seemingly mostly overlooked feature on no less than 26 U.S. coins in various silver, gold and copper compositions is the Phrygian cap. While we ardently collect these coins, I have never seen this aspect of history discussed in the context of its importance to our history and our coinage.

We should also be aware that a great number of world coins also feature the Phrygian cap.Most people who have heard of the Phrygian cap believe that it originated during the French revolution, but that is a misconception. Prior to being adopted during those times, in Colonial America running up to the American Revolution (1776-1781) the Sons of Liberty were already wearing it and even their adoption of this symbol was predated by centuries.

Actually, the Phrygian cap originated in Anatolia (now modern Turkey) which included Phrygia, Dacia, and the Balkans. It has not always been associated with the concept of freedom and its use spread to the early Hellenistic culture.

Roman culture had a similar cap called the Pileus which was first associated with freedom. In the late Roman era it was bestowed upon former slaves who had been freed.This concept was later adopted by Western Europe. It was worn in the Netherlands before being worn as a public symbol of those who wanted to overthrow the French monarchy during the French Revolution (1779-1789).

We see a number of our coin designers who recognized and included the Cap as an important national symbol of our nation. They were Augustin Dupree, Robert Scot, probably Joseph Wright (per Redbook), probably Henry Voight, John Reich, Christian Goebrecht, Charles Barber, Adolf Weinman, George T. Morgan and Edward Everett Burr who designed the Arkansas conmerative half dollars. ( Special thanks to a recent blog by coinfodder for identifying this coin).

The Phrygian cap first appeared on American coinage beginning in 1793 with the Liberty Cap half cent and the type III Flowing Hair large cent. Other issues featuring the Phrygian Cap are the capped bust half dime, Liberty Seated half dime, Capped Bust dime, Barber Dime, Mercury dime, Liberty Seated twenty cent,Capped Bust quarter,Liberty Seated quarter , Barber quarter, Capped Bust half dollar, Liberty Seated half dollar, Barber half dollar, Walking Liberty Half Dollar, Goebrecht dollar, Liberty Seated Dollar, Trade dollar, Morgan dollar and the Arkansas conmerative half dollars

Our current coin issued with the Phrygian cap featured of course is our American Silver Eagle bullion coin.

Gold coins featuring the cap are Capped Bust Quarter Eagle, Capped Bust Head to Left Quarter Eagle, Capped Bust Head to Right Half Eagle, Capped Bust Head to Left Half Eagle (with two different reverses), and the Capped Bust to Right Eagle. There are also examples of Civil War tokens that feature this device as well.

As we can see, the Phrygian Cap is the third most important device featured on United States coinage. It is second only to Liberty herself and the Eagle.

It is difficult for me to put together a comprehensive list of countries who have featured the Phrygian Cap. I was able to identify the following countries who have used the device on the coins, This list of countries is not exhaustive and please do let me know of countries I may have missed. My partial list includes, Great Britain and its colonial issues, France and its colonial issues, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Haiti.

Comments

Vailen

Level 3

I had no knowledge of the Phrygian cap before reading your post. Now I see the cap on US coins. I thought the cap was just part of the artist's design and did not have a significant meaning. Obviously I was wrong. Thanks for educating me!

Mr_Norris_LKNS

Level 4

Someone makes them and sells them on Amazon. Don't know how accurate of a historic representation they are, but since they were all handmade by whomever back in the day, it probably doesn't matter much. Very interesting post, thanks!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Updated with a few errors and Grammer corrected

World_Coin_Nut

Level 5

Thanks for the history lesson. I don't know that I have ever heard this before.

Mokie

Level 6

Wow, have not given much thought to the cap but your blog is on point and very well researched. I will pay much more attention to Phrygian caps in the future.

Longstrider

Level 6

Very well done. You are right, This cap is seldom/never discussed. Well it is now. Nice research job. A lot of good facts here. Thanks.

RuralRon

Level 3

Very well researched! Nearly forgot about the importance of Liberty Caps during the Revolution. Thanks for a well done paper.

Long Beard

Level 5

Impressive blog topic. Well done.

Golfer

Level 5

Thanks to you, i have learned about this, and what it stands for. Very good topic. Learned something new for sure.

Mike

Level 7

A symbol of liberty. You can still buy them today. Yes they appear on our coinage. But other countries as you noted.. . Great point no it's not mentioned allot in the hobby. But thanks to your research allot more will know.about it and what it stands for. Thanks for an very informative blog. I learned something today and that makes me very happy. Thanks for your time. I had no idea it went that far back ,to Rome.

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