1911 Eagle (1911 $10) NGC MS66. Smoldering mint luster glows from within the devices of this lovely 1911 Indian Head Eagle with its beautiful color and original surfaces. Only a couple of marks on Liberty’s face keep this coin from an even higher mint state grade. Except for some detail on one or two feathers in the headdress, the strike is strong on the obverse. Slight weakness is seen on some of the eagle’s feathers on the reverse.
Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the obverse consists of a close up profile of a Caucasian female Liberty facing left wearing a Native American headdress. Above her unrealistic war bonnet are thirteen stars in an arc. Below the truncation is the date. The origin of the profile is Saint-Gaudens’ own statue of Nike which was part of his memorial to General Sherman and can still be seen at the southern entrance to Central Park in New York City. Alice Butler was the model for the sculpture. Originally Saint-Gaudens wanted to place a wreath on Liberty’s head, but President Theodore Roosevelt insisted that it be a feathered war bonnet to give the coin a more nationalistic appeal.
The reverse shows a powerful standing eagle that is suggestive of Egyptian art. The eagle stands on a bundle of arrows that resemble fasces. In Roman iconography, fasces symbolized the power to kill or the power of life and death. Held on top of the arrows by the eagle’s talon is the olive branch, the traditional symbol of peace. Above the eagle’s head is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and in the right field is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and in the left field IN GOD WE TRUST. The denomination TEN DOLLARS is below. On its edge, the coin has forty-six raised stars, one for each state in the union at the time.
Roosevelt, a deeply religious man, felt that it was blasphemous to have God’s name on a coin. Coins were used for gambling, prostitution, hiring assassins, and worse. So he asked Saint-Gaudens to omit the motto “In God We Trust.” However, Congress felt otherwise, and in 1908 the motto was added.
The 1911 eagle had a total mintage of 505,500. In its population report NGC shows 12 in MS66 with 3 a grade better.