Indian Head Gold, 1907-1933

Indian Head Gold, 1907-1933

Indian Head $2 1/2 Gold Quarter Eagles, 1908-1929. The “Indian Head” $2.50 Quarter Eagles were designed by Bela Lyon Pratt of Boston, Massachusetts. These coins, as well as the “Indian Head” $5 Half Eagles, are the only United States Federal coins minted using a technique of impressing the design of a coin by striking called incuse. Unlike most other coins, an incuse coin does not have raised edges. Perhaps the most distinguished feature of an incuse coin is the design devices and legend, although still in relief, lie below the plane of the surface of the coin.

The opinion of the general public on this radically new design was mixed, however, it was apparent that some controversy was inevitable. In fact, noted numismatist Samuel Chapman wrote to President Roosevelt at the time, exclaiming that the coins lacked beauty; were easily counterfeited; unhygienic and did not form stacks of equal height. The man who originally suggested the incuse design to the President, Dr, Bigelow, then rebuked Mr. Chapman’s remarks to the President. Despite these outbursts, 7,252,147 Indian Head Quarter Eagles were minted between 1908 to 1929. No coins were minted between the years of 1916 and 1924.

The Indian Head Quarter Eagle series is by far the most widely collected series of regular issue, United States Federal gold coins. It consists of 15 Business Strike coins and 8 Proofs. Philadelphia minted coins for each of the 13 years represented in both Business Strike and Proofs. Denver minted Business Strike coins in 1911, 1914 and 1925 only. These coins are quite affordable and are most often found in varying degrees of uncirculated condition, although the total number of remaining coins is less than 1% of the original mintage!

Indian Head Half Eagle $5 Gold Pieces, 1908-1929. Also created by Bela Lyon Pratt of Boston, Massachusetts he used the design of the Quarter Eagle for the “Indian Head” Half Eagles. Both denominations are the only United States Federal coins minted with the incuse design. A total of 14,078,976 Indian Head Half Eagles were minted between 1908 to 1929. No coins were minted between the years of 1917 and 1928.

Unlike the Indian Head $2.50 Quarter eagle, the Indian Head $5 Half Eagle series is a much more difficult set to build and is therefore not often attempted. It consists of 24 Business Strike coins and 8 Proofs, many of which are prohibitively rare in any uncirculated condition. Philadelphia minted coins for each of the 10 years represented in Business Strike and Proofs between 1908 and 1915. Denver minted Business Strike coins in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, and 1914. San Francisco minted 9 Business Strike coins between 1908 and 1916. New Orleans minted 1 Business Strike coin in 1909. These coins can vary widely in price depending upon grade, and are most often found in About Uncirculated-50 to Mint State-63 conditions.

Indian Head Eagle $10 Gold Pieces, 1907-1933. The Indian Head Eagle, along with the double eagles struck between 1907 and 1933, were designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and are considered the most aesthetic and classically designed of all U.S. coins. Issued between 1907 and 1933, these coins were part of a true renaissance in U.S. coinage design. They were issued in two distinct types. In 1907 and part of 1908, the motto, “In God We Trust,” was not included in the coins’ design because President Roosevelt personally objected to the use of the Diety’s name on coinage. The motto was, however, restored in 1908 by an act of Congress.

  • Indian Eagle, No Motto, 1907-1908
  • Indian Eagle, With Motto, 1908-1933
  • The Indian Eagle was struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints.

One innovation associated with this series was the use of stars on the edge, one for each state of the union. 46 stars were used between 1907 and 1911, increased to 48 stars between 1912 and 1933. No coins were minted between 1917 and 1919, 1921 and 1925, 1927 and 1929 or 1931. The 1933 issue is one of a collectors most highly coveted issues available today since there are very few known issues remaining and it is a 1933-dated gold coin that is legal to own. Conversely, the 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle is not legal and would be confiscated by the government if discovered! The “rolled edge with periods” pieces of 1907 are technically considered patterns, although often collected as part of the regular series. Most of the branch mint issues are scarce, especially the 1911-D and S, the 1913-S, 1920-S and 1930-S. Most of the 192O-S, 1930-S, and 1933 issues were destroyed after gold coinage was suspended in 1933.

Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold Pieces, 1907-1933. Designed by noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the classically designed walking Liberty on this $20 Gold Piece is considered by many to be the most beautiful U.S. coin ever struck. Originally designed in very high relief, the design devices were soon lowered due to the fact that multiple blows of the dies were needed to bring up all the details on the high relief pieces. There are three major Varieties of the Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle. These include:

  • Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, High Relief, 1907
  • Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, No Motto, 1907-1908
  • Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, With Motto, 1908-1933

There were a total of 54 Business Strike and and 12 Proof Strike examples minted. Of this original number, one Business Strike (1933) is legally unobtainable and three Proof Strikes are virtually impossible to acquire: the 1907 Ultra High Relief (24 known – most unobtainable), the 1907 Arabic (3-4 known) and the unique 1908 Satin or “Roman Finish” Proofs.

Despite the fact that many dates within the series are quite expensive, the Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle series is a very popular one to collect by those with the financial means to complete it. This series includes one of the few 20th century overdate coins, the 1909 over 8. Other scarce issues in the series includes the low mintage 1908-S, the extremely rare and seldom offered 1927-D, and all issues between 1929 and 1932. Apparently, the majority of these later issues, along with the 1927-D, were melted down during the 1930’s. Over 400,000 pieces dated 1933 were struck, but they were never officially released and are not legal to own. In fact, when one did surface in 1954, from the collection of King Farouk of Egypt, it was withdrawn from auction and confiscated by the Federal Government.

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