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Transposed Arrows – A Heraldic Term and a Strange Bias on Coins

1797 Capped Bust Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1797 Capped Bust Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..


In heraldry, the term transposed arrows means that an eagle is clutching arrows in its dexter or right claw instead of its sinister or left claw. Note, however, that these Latin terms refer to the eagle’s point of view; transposed arrows would be on the viewer’s left. The reason it matters is because arrows, symbolizing war, are traditionally placed in the sinister claw because “bad” things have been historically associated with the left side and “good” things–like peace, as symbolized by the olive branch–with the right.

Key examples of transposed arrow on United States coinage include reverse eagles designed by United States Mint Chief Engraver Robert Scot and utilized between 1796 and 1807.

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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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