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Great Seal of the United States of America : What Does It Mean?

The back of the $1 bill features an image of the Great Seal of the United States.
The back of the $1 bill features an image of the Great Seal of the United States of America.

The First Seal of the United States, dated 1776, features an unfinished pyramid. The “All-Seeing Eye” peers out from a pyramid above it. The Latin motto ANNUIT COEPTIS, meaning “He [God] Approved of the Beginning”, wraps around the top of the circular seal. At the bottom, a ribbon that reads NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM (“A New Order of the Ages”). At the base of the pyramid is the date MDCCLXXVI (1776) in Roman numerals.

The Second Seal, dated 1782 (adopted by the Continental Congress on June 20, 1782), features the heraldic eagle with wings and legs spread, the federal shield at its breast. Olive branches in his dexter claw and 13 arrows in his sinister claw. The eagle holds a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM (“Out of Many, One”) in its beak. A glory of 13 stars is situated above the eagle’s head.

It was designed by William Barton of Philadelphia, a lawyer, heraldist, and numismatist, and Charles Thomson (also of Philadelphia), the Secretary of the Continental Congress. Robert Scot, future Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, adapted the Great Seal of the United States of America for its use on coins. Future Mint Director Elias Boudinot served on a three-man committee charged with finishing the design.

Both seals appear on the reverse of the Federal Reserve $1 Note. Versions of the Second Seal are common motifs on the reverse of United States coins.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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