Did you Notice Lady Liberty Disguised on These Two Coins?

Lady Liberty is on more coins than any other person or figure. (With the exception of maybe the Bald Eagle, but it’s a close tie.) In fact, Lady Liberty may be on more coins than you knew. Did you notice lady liberty on these two iconic coins?

Many Interpretations

Lady Liberty is a woman who wears many hats, literally! Many people do not recognize Lady Liberty if she does not have her iconic spiky crown, but Lady Liberty wears more crowns than one.

Lady Liberty has no preordained design, the most iconic depiction is Lady Liberty in the Statue of Liberty, but she has also been seen in many forms.

Lady Liberty is well known on US Coinage. The Peace and Morgan dollars are the best examples of coins we all know to be depicting Lady Liberty.

Well known depictions of Lady Liberty. The Morgan and Peace Dollar Coins.

Everyone knows that Lady Liberty is on both the Peace and Morgan dollars, but if you saw these two women on the street, would you suspect they were the same person? I wouldn’t!

First Hidden Liberty: The Mercury Dime

Mercury Lady Liberty Dime Cutout
Lady Liberty on the Mercury Dime

The Mercury Dime is more accurately known as the “Winged Liberty Head Dime” because this coin is actually depicting Lady Liberty!

Remember what I said about people not recognizing Ms. Liberty if she is not in her spiked crown? On this coin, Lady Liberty is wearing a Phrygian Cap with wings. The Phrygian Cap is another depiction of liberty and the pursuit of liberty, originating from the Roman Goddess Libertas. It was a cap worn by freed slaves in Ancient Rome.

Adolf Weiman, the coin’s designer, added the wings to the Phrygian Cap to depict the liberty of thought. Although the wings have interesting symbolism, they are probably the contributing factor to the idea that this coin depicts Mercury and not Lady Liberty.

Mercury is the Roman god of commerce, he is similar to the Greek god Hermes in . Mercury also wears a winged cap, so it is understandable how these two became confused. (Now that I think about it, adding a God of commerce to coins makes a lot of sense…)

Second Hidden Liberty: The Indian Head Penny

IHP Indian Head Penny Cutout Liberty
Lady Liberty on the Indian Head Penny

I remember this fact blew my mind! I had always assumed the Indian Head Penny (or IHP) depicted a Native American in a headdress, but nope! It is actually Lady Liberty in a Native American Headdress.

The Indian Head Cent was minted from 1859 to 1909 and was designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.

Longacre described why he put Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress in an 1858 letter,

“From the copper shores of Lake Superior, to the silver mountains of Potosi from the Ojibwa to the Araucanian, the feathered tiara is as characteristic of the primitive races of our hemisphere, as the turban is of the Asiatic. Nor is there anything in its decorative character, repulsive to the association of Liberty … It is more appropriate than the Phrygian cap, the emblem rather of the emancipated slave, than of the independent freeman, of those who are able to say “we were never in bondage to any man”.

I regard then this emblem of America as a proper and well defined portion of our national inheritance; and having now the opportunity of consecrating it as a memorial of Liberty, ‘our Liberty’, American Liberty; why not use it? One more graceful can scarcely be devised. We have only to determine that it shall be appropriate, and all the world outside of us cannot wrest it from us.”

I am going to save the argument of whether or not Longacre’s intentions were misplaced for another article, but it has been debated in several coin collecting circles whether using the Native American headdress was used to honor Native Americans in the United States or to glory people who were at the same time being oppressed.

The face of Lady Liberty in the penny was based on a statue of Crouching Venus Longacre saw in Philadelphia.

It is interesting that the Indian Head Penny is so often misidentified as depicting a Native American because the Indian Head Penny is one of the most well-known and popular of the older US coins. Of course, it probably does not help that it is always referred to as the “Indian Head Penny”.

Did any of these surprise you? Add a comment below and vote in our poll!

6 thoughts on “Did you Notice Lady Liberty Disguised on These Two Coins?

  1. I was paging through the 2022 copy of the Red Book looking at prices on Mercury dimes when I happened to notice that fact in the text. All these years, and I thought I was looking at Hermes whenever I’d see one of those dimes!

    As for the Indian pennies, I decided to educate myself about die variations and collect them so I started with “A Guide Book of Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents” by Richard Snow, which is where I learned that Lady Liberty apparently likes to play dress up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The winged liberty dime was reference as a Mercury dime in the Numismatist magazine one month after the coin was released, and rightfully so. Mercury was a Roman god, not a goddess. Look at an enlarged photo of a mercury dime (not the photo you show.) That sure looks like a man’s face. Weimans model for the dime was a bust he did of Elsie Stevens. However, neither the bust or the face on the dime bare any resemblance to photos of Elsie Stevens. As for Longacre’s model for the Indian Cent being from the statue Crouching Venus, he must have been joking, Pull up a photo of the statue. The face is totally opposite of the face on the indian cent.


  3. Unfortunately in recent years the US int has decided to go a bit PC and define Miss Liberty as being of different races.

    Now please, do NOT get me wrong. I actually like the looks of the coin having the Black Miss Liberty (reminds me of one of my former students!). However, I think they did the Oriental MIss LIberty a disservice. All I can think of when I see the design is the phrase of “someone blowing their mind.” The back of her head looks like a backwards explosion.

    Anyway…back to the reason for this post.
    Historically Lady Liberty was the figure representing the culture that made the first free nation in the world. It is not racist, nor derogatory to say that these people were Europeans, specifically English and French initially. Whether or not modern history books and people seeking to cause racial problems want to acknowledge the facts, these were Caucasians. Miss Liberty who was originally seen on the coins was there representing the heritage these people brought to the Land of the Free.

    Ignoring this fact, and making a racial issue/statement of this manner concerning the MIss Liberty effigy, would be greatly slammed in the media and otherwise as being a racist move if the shoe was on the other foot…and rightly so.

    Anytime we rewrite history for our own mindset, it is wrong.

    I personally would LOVE to see a coin series issued commending the American Melting pot and how, America was bettered after already being established by the inclusion of any and all races. America became strong through our physical racial diversity. That racial heritage should be celebrated by keeping the facts of history instead of changing the facts.

    Factual history is too important to learn our mistakes from than to have it rewritten for political/divisional/and non-historical means. This degrades every American.

    BTW…the history I studied/taught is derived from the contemporary accounts, not from re-written and misleading fantasies written and taught nowadays in many places.

    And I know nowadays it is very difficult for some people to read anything about race without automatically getting their ire up and making accusations of racism. So you can ask my Black brother and his family if I am a racist and you will get a definite, “What?! Get a life!” BTW – that is not being mean…just the shock they would have at the suggestion 🙂 .


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