The US $2.50 ('quarter eagle') gold coin was issued in 1796, and was the first coin to feature an eagle with a shield on its chest. The other side featured the bust of Liberty wearing a conical cap (sometimes referred to as a turban). Like half eagles, quarter eagles were often melted down as their value in gold exceeded their face value.

Starting in 1834, quarter eagles were produced with less gold content, and the design changed. The motto over the eagle’s head and Liberty’s cap were both removed. This design, known as the "Classic Head," was in use until 1839, when the motto was replaced. In 1848, quarter eagle coins that used gold shipped by the military governor of California were marked with "CAL."

In 1908, President Roosevelt asked sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt to create a new design for the quarter eagle. His design featured the bust of an Indian chief on one side and an eagle with closed wings on the other. This design was in use until quarter eagles ceased production in 1929.

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