The Indian Head $5 Gold Coin

The Indian Head $5 Gold Coin was minted in the year 1908 through 1916. For thirteen years, the production was suspended until it was again minted in the year 1929. That was the last year that the Indian Head $5 Gold was produced as the Great Depression of Wall Street ended the series. All $5 Gold Coin was called half eagles. The controversies that surrounded the minting of this coin along with the Indian Head $2.5 and $10 Gold coin makes it a worthwhile collection.

The History of the Indian Head $5 Gold Coin

The Indian Head $5 Gold Coin was created after President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded the 24 President of the United States, President William McKinley in 1901. After President McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt made sure to imprint himself on many aspects of the nation, including the coinage system.

President Roosevelt appointed a popular sculptor named Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create new designs for the Eagle ($10) and Double Eagle ($20) Gold. Both coins made their debut by the year 1907. In 1908, the Half Eagle and Quarter Half Eagle were also redesigned.

A close friend of President Roosevelt, William Sturgis Bigelow who was also an art lover and physician in Boston at the same time, came up with the idea of the recessed design. He was inspired by the Egyptian artworks which had incused reliefs when he came to visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He was the one who told Roosevelt of the idea, to which Rooseverlt took an interest and have it incorporated in the new designs of the US coinage.

With this, Bela Lyon Pratt was assigned to prepare the models for the new Gold coins. Pratt incorporated the incused relief with his design – an American Indian on the obverse side of the coin, while an Eagle is featured on the reverse.

When the new Half Eagle and Quarter Eagle made their first appearance at the end of 1908, the public had mixed reactions. This is quite expected as the US Gold Coins have never been redesigned for more than 60 years. Also, the incuse relief was a new feature as no Gold Coin had ever been made with such design.

Because of the unexpected design, many have come forward to express their dismay, one of which was Samuel H. Chapman – a Philadelphia coin dealer. He had warned then President Roosevelt about the imposing problems that can cloud the new coins. For one, the recessed design can very much accumulate dirt and harbor different types of diseases once passed among the public. Another issue was that the new coins can easily be counterfeited thanks to its sunken design.

There were also reports that Charles Barber, the current US Mint Engraver at that time, made unnecessary modifications on Pratt’s models. However, Roosevelt made sure the designs he wanted will be issued, and so the coins were issued.

The Indian Head $5 Gold Coins were minted yearly from 1908-1916, then again in 1929. During the production of the coins in 1909, four US Mints minted the coins – Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and New Orleans. After the year 1916, the Indian Head $5 Gold Coins were suspended from being minted only to resume production 13 years later. These were last coined in 1929, and was the last year that these coin series were minted, thanks to the Great Depression or the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Detailed Specifications of the Indian Head $5 Gold Coin

US Mint (coin), National Numismatic Collection (photograph by Jaclyn Nash), NNC-US-1908-G$5-Indian Head, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Indian Head $5 Gold Coin has a reeded edge, weighs approximately 8.24 grams and has a diameter of 21.60 mm. These were designed by Bela Lyon Pratt and are made up of 90% Gold and 10% Copper.

The designer is the same as the Indian Head $2.50 Gold Coin or the Indian Head Quarter Gold Coin. The obverse features a realistic American Indian in a brave ware bonnet. On the top of the Indian’s head lies the word LIBERTY in a form of an arc while the date of mintage sits below the portrait. A total of thirteen stars were scattered on either side of the Indian. Pratt’s initials can be seen on the obverse below the portrait and just above the date.

For the reverse, an Eagle is seen in a reposed position, resting on fasces and an olive branch. Pratt did an amazing job in incorporating all four inscriptions on the coin without the design looking crowded or unbalanced. The four inscriptions are as follows: the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, E PLURIBUS UNUM and the denomination FIVE DOLLARS. The mintmark can be seen on the reverse side of the coin, bearing the US Mint that produced the coins, except for Philadelphia which doesn’t have a mint mark.

The Gold Indian Head $5 Coin Series according to the PCGS Coin Facts

Regular Strike:

  1.    1908 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 577,845 in Philadelphia
  2.    1908-D Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 148,000 in Denver
  3.    1908-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 82,000 in San Francisco
  4.    1909 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin in Philadelphia – number of coins produced are 627,060
  5.    1909-D Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 3,423,560 in Denver
  6.    1909-O Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 34,200 in New Orleans
  7.    1909-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 297,200 in San Francisco
  8.    1910 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 604,000 in Philadelphia
  9.    1910-D Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 193,600 in Denver
  10.    1910-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 770,200 in San Francisco
  11.    1911 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 915,000 in Philadelphia
  12.    1911-D Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 72,500 in Denver
  13.    1911-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 1,416,000 in San Francisco
  14.    1912 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 790,000 in Philadelphia
  15.    1912-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 392,000 in San Francisco
  16.    1913 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 915,901 in Philadelphia
  17.    1913-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 408,000 in San Francisco
  18.    1904 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 247,000 in Philadelphia
  19.    1914-D Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 247,000 in Denver
  20.    1914-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 263,000 in San Francisco
  21.    1915 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 588,000 in Philadelphia
  22.    1915-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 164,000 in San Francisco
  23.    1916-S Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 240,000 in San Francisco
  24.    1929 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin – number of coins produced are 662,000 in Philadelphia

Proofs

  1.    1908 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 167 in Philadelphia
  2.    1909 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 78 in Philadelphia
  3.    1910 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 78 in Philadelphia    
  4.    1911 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 139 in Philadelphia
  5.    1912 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 144 in Philadelphia
  6.    1913 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 99 in Philadelphia
  7.    1914 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 125 in Philadelphia
  8.    1915 Indian Head $5 Gold Coin (Proof) – number of coins produced are 75 in Philadelphia

Collecting Indian Head $5 Gold Coins

When collecting Indian Head %5 Gold Coins, the coins’ recessed design makes a bit complicated when grading coins. The good thing is, this very feature of the Indian Head $5 Gold Coin protects it from heavy wear. Try to focus on the cheekbone of the Indian, the feathers on his headdress as well as the shoulder of the eagle’s left wing when grading the coin and looking for pieces of evidence of wear.

Thanks to the innovative design of the Indian Head $5 Gold coin, the coins are readily available in the Mint States up to MS64. However, those in MS65 and up are quite difficult to catch. One of the easiest to find is those dated in 1909-D. Scarce dates include 1909-O, 1911-D and 1908-S, but the 1929 half eagle is the most sought-after of them all.

Indian Head $5 Gold Coins are generally well struck, however, since the only element that is raised is the mint mark if any. This makes it hard to distinguish whether in low or high grades. One can buy Indian Head $5 Gold Coins starting $355 up to $200,000.00.

For the Price Range set by PCGS-graded Indian Head $5 Gold Coins, you can use this link.

References:

PCGS, PCGC CoinFacts, NGC Coin, JM Bullion, Provident Metals