The Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin

The Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coins were minted from 1908-1915 and again in 1925-1925. Having only 15 series to collect, the popular incused coin makes it easy to complete. This also has it fair share of issues and controversies which only makes it more fun and satisfying for coin collectors to collect.

The History of the Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin

Gold coins issued at the start of the 20th Century usually have a life expectancy of no longer than fifty years. However, four of these gold coins are long overdue for a major change in design.  For more than 60 years, three of these have been sporting the same portrait of Miss Liberty with a coronet.

All things changed in 1901 when the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, was assassinated on the 6th of September of the same year. The slain president was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz two times in the chest, only to die eight days later.

President William Roosevelt was his successor and the man behind the reason why the US gold coins were redesigned. President Roosevelt has always been dynamic and an advocate for quintessential change – he wanted to influence the whole spectrum of national life, and the US Coinage was one of them.

He was the one who appointed Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a popular sculptor to create new designs for the double eagle and eagle gold piece. As a result, stunning new gold coins debuted in the year 1907, garnering great reviews. Roosevelt basked in self-glory after the release of the new gold coins were praised by the public. The following year, he also made sure to approve the creation of the new designs for the remaining two gold coins.

In 1908, the Gold Indian Head $2.50 or the Indian Head Quarter Eagle along with the Half Eagle, its companion, stand among the crowd of other coins back in the days. All the letterings and designs were submerged in a uniform, flat plane. If there is any in the design that exceeds the highest points of the fields, it would be the mint marks. Because of this, the coins have no rims raised to protect the details from wear.

A sculptor in Boston and a pupil of Augustus Saint-Gaudens named Bela Lyon Pratt was the brain behind the design of the Indian Head $2.50 and replaced the long-running design of the Liberty Head. The head of the coin, also called as the obverse was changed from the Eagle motif into a portrait of an American Indian. It was believed that this is the first time that a real Native American was used and featured on a US coin.

US Mint (coin), National Numismatic Collection (photograph by Jaclyn Nash), NNC-US-1908-G$2½-Indian Head, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

As mentioned, the obverse features a realistic Indian who looks brave in a war bonnet. LIBERTY is found on top of the Indian’s head while the date rests below the portrait’s bum. Thirteen starts were scattered on either side of the Indian.

As for the reverse, it shows an eagle resting on fasces and an olive branch which serves as the symbol or peace and preparedness. Four different inscriptions were incorporated into the design – namely UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the denomination 2 ½ DOLLARS. The same design was used for the Indian Head Half eagle.

The Indian Head $2.50 Gold coin has a reeded edge and is made up of 90% Gold and 10% Copper. It weighs approximately 4.18 grams and is 18 mm in diameter. The coin’s designer, Bela Lyon Pratt succeeded in placing all four inscriptions in the design without making it looked cramped and unbalanced. He was able to do this thanks to his excellent and judicious placement of the inscriptions as well as the size of the letters.

When the coin was released, the public had mixed reactions, to say the least. Although some are able to appreciate the beauty of the coin as well as the artistic merits of the design, some found ways to criticize the Gold Indian Head $2.50. The critics claimed that the main designs – the Indian portrait as well as the Eagle were not properly represented. There were also some who claims the coins cannot be stacked properly. The coin’s unconventional design did not go unnoticed by the public’s eye.

Samuel H. Chapman, a coin dealer in Philadelphia have warned President Roosevelt regarding the imposing problems that the Gold Indian Head $2.5 will eventually face. For one, the sunken design can easily be counterfeited. Another issue brought up by Chapman was the fact that dirt can easily accumulate on the surface of the coin which harbors numerous types of diseases that easily be transmitted once out and used in the public commerce. President Roosevelt did not waver and stayed loyal to the coins.

From 1908, the Indian Head Gold Quarter Coins were minted up until 1915, when the US Mint decided to stop the production for almost 10 years. After a decade, minting resumed from 1925 until 1929, when the Indian Head Gold Quarter Coin series finally came to an end. It became one of the victims of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

When the most devastating crash in the stock market occurred, many coins were removed from the circulation. Since gold was needed to create the Indian Head Gold Quarter coins, the Wall Street Crash, also known as the Great Crash, gold coins were recalled and the Indian Head Gold Quarter failed to make a comeback.

The Indian Head Gold Quarter only has a total of 15 date-mint combinations. The two US Mints that produced these coins are the Denver Mint and the Philadelphia Mint. With only 3 issues from Denver and a total of 12 issues released from the Philadelphia Mint, it quickly became the smallest series among all US coins ever minted. Those minted in Denver has the mintmark D, while those mint in Philadelphia bears no mint mark.

The Gold Indian Head $2.50 Coin Series according to the PCGS Coin Facts

Regular Strike:

  1.    1908 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin –564,821 coins minted
  2.    1909 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin –441,760 coins minted
  3.    1910 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin –492,000 coins minted
  4.    1911 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin –704,000 coins minted
  5.    1911-D Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin –55,600 coins minted
  6.    1912 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -616,000 coins minted
  7.    1913 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -722,000 coins minted
  8.    1914 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -240,000 coins minted
  9.    1914-D Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -448,000 coins minted
  10.   1915 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -606,000 coins minted
  11.    1915-D Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -578,000 coins minted
  12.    1926 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -446,000 coins minted
  13.    1927 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -388,000 coins minted
  14.    1928 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -416,000 coins minted
  15.    1929 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin -532,000 coins minted

Proofs

  1.    1908 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) – 236 coins minted
  2.    1909 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -139 coins minted
  3.    1910 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -682 coins minted
  4.    1911 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -191 coins minted
  5.    1912 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -197 coins minted
  6.    1913 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) – 165 coins minted
  7.    1914 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -117 coins minted
  8.    1915 Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin (Proof) -100 coins minted

Collecting Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coins

Because the design of this gold coin is recessed, it keeps the design protected from wear, but can also be a hindrance when it comes to grading the coin. When grading an Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin, the Indian’s cheekbone, the feathers on his headdress as well as the shoulder of the eagle’s left wing are the areas you should focus to try and look for wear.

Despite its relatively high price, Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coins makes it easy for collectors to obtain this selection since you only need 15 combinations to complete the series of regular strike coins. The price range of the Indian Head $2.50 ranges from $210.00 up to $225,000.00 for the MS66 PCGS-graded 1911-D Strong D. That and the fact that the 1911-D is the only regular strike Indian Head $2.50 Gold coin that has low mintage rate – with only 55,600 coins produced in Denver. All dates from the series are readily available in MS or mint state, all except for the 1911-D.

The Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coins may have a history with a fair share of criticism, but that doesn’t make it less desirable among coin collectors. Despite all the controversies it went through during the time these were issued, one can’t hide the fact that it is one intriguing yet an equally satisfying collection to complete.

For the Price Range set by PCGS-graded Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coins, you can use the link.

References:

PCGS, PCGS CoinFacts, NGC Coin, SBC Gold, JM Bullion

Featured Image Source: US Mint (coin), National Numismatic Collection (photograph by Jaclyn Nash), NNC-US-1908-G$2½-Indian Head, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0