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1908 Motto Indian Head Eagle - Matte Proof

1908, Matte Proof
This is a very complex year, with possibly three Proof finishes used for coinage. The finish most commonly seen is a dark matte Proof finish, and of the 116 coins struck, this represents virtually all known examples. As a date, this is the most commonly available of the Proof issues. Orders for these coins were large, as the 1908 coins were the first Proofs generally available to collectors. Many survive in gem condition.

1908 $10 or Eagle ( 1908 Eagle, Matte Proof NGC PF67 )
PCGS No: 8859, 8890, 88890
Mintage Circulation strikes: 341,370
Proofs: 116
Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Diameter: ±26.8 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Copper - 10%
Weight: ±258 grains (±16.7 grams)
Edge: Raised stars
Mintmark: None (for Philadelphia, PA) left of the arrowheads on the reverse.

The 1908 Motto is one of the more common dates of this beautiful type and I rank it 24th in overall rarity (see Appendix E) in the Indian Head series. Uncirculated examples of average quality are not difficult to obtain and even specimens at the choice and gem levels cannot really be considered to be scarce. There are also a substantial number of truly superb examples known of this issue.

Proofs are rare but are by far the most often encountered of the Indian Head type. However, since matte proofs are so "fragile" and show handling marks or even the minutest rubbing to a far greater degree than brilliant proofs, it is extremely difficult to locate a proof without detracting shiny spots or "highlights".

Most of the proofs are of the matte or sandblast type but there is one known "Roman" finish or "satin" finish proof that was undoubtedly struck later in the year to test the newfinish that would be used in 1909 and 1910. This unique specimen was in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for many years until it was sold in Stack's 1976 ANA Sale. It is the coin pictured above and it is now in the Robert Kruthoffer Collection. Matte proofs exist with both dark and light finishes (most are the former) and I estimate that only 30-35 proofs can still be accounted for today.


Less than a year after adoption of the St. Gaudens design, an outraged and furious Congress (probably goaded by vociferous clergy) ordered that the motto IN GOD WE TRUST be forthwith restored to the coinage, as mandated by the Act of March 3, 1865. The 1907 issues and the first ones of 1908 had lacked this motto because Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, on religious grounds (Dutch Reformed Church and Freemasonry), believed that placing the name of God on currency was a debasement amounting to blasphemy. After all, these coins bearing the name of God were likely too often to be dropped, stepped on, used in rigged gambling or for hiring assassins or buying murder weapons.

Congressmen, of course, had forgotten about the jeers which greeted the original addition of this motto to our coins. Many even in the 1860s recognized that it was likely to be misread or satirically rendered, as in fact happened; "In Gold We Trust" and "In God We Trust-All Others Must Pay Cash" became mock slogans heard to the present day. Others assumed that the proper name of the god worshipped by the owners-and possibly some of the makers-was Mammon.

Nevertheless, Congress insisted on flinging this particular lump of incense onto the altar, even as-in one of the weirder coincidences-the British Parliament was to do three years later when George V's new 1911 Canadian "Godless" coins omitted the traditional initials D.G. (= DEI GRATIA, 'By the grace of God'). Possibly the congressmen were more concerned with proving that they were not atheists than with preserving separation of church and state.

The new design with motto is by Charles E. Barber, after St. Gaudens. Aside from the addition of the motto, none of Barber's niggling changes are defensible as improvements unless one insists that more of the first U of UNUM had to show. Nor is striking quality improved.

Denver Mint coins 1908-10 continue the extra broad mint-mark, tilted so as to follow the curve of border, as on 7099; later dates show a much smaller mintmark. S mintmarks are always small, also following the curve of border.
Coins dated 1908-11 have 46 stars on edge as before; 1912-33, 48 stars, the extra two being added to honor the admission of Arizona and New Mexico. Edges continued to be imparted by segmented (tripartite) collars.

All proofs 1908-15 are much rarer than their mintage figures suggest; notably rarer than most dates 1897-1907. Many were melted in 1917 as unsold, others spent during the 1921 and 1929-33 financial crises. These proofs have finishes differing from one year to another; see Breen {1977}, pp. 207-16. Dangerous forgeries exist; authentication strongly recommended.

Before 1920 no dates or mintmarks are rare in ordinary grades, though some are Ex. rare choice. Thereafter, only two dates are readily obtainable: 1926 and 1932. In my experience, 1920 S is rarer than 1930 S or 1933. For some decades one 1930 S turned up in the San Francisco area every three years, probably from a single roll. The 1933 is usually considered rarest, only a few dozen at most legally released in Jan.-Feb. 1933. About 1952 a small hoard, possibly 20-30 in all, probably the majority of the coins issued, showed up on the East Coast. (I studied eight of them on a single tray in 1953: gem mint-state beauties.) A few others turned up later, from French and Swiss banks. No hoard of 1920 S ever appeared, though since 1980 possibly four or five have returned from Europe, and reportedly 10 more were found in upper New York State. Most of these late dates only come UNC. with varying amounts of bag marks, testifying to their long residence in bank cash reserves.

Designer, Engraver, Charles E. Barber, after St. Gaudens. Mints, Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (mintmark S), Denver (D). Mintmark opposite or below arrow points. Physical Specifications, Authorizing Acts, as before.
Grade range and standards, as before. NOTE: Not collected in low grades.

HISTORY in 1908:
New York City, Jan. 17. A wireless message from Puerto Rico is received at Times Towerr.
Collingwood, Ohio, March 4. Schoolhouse blaze kills 175 children.
Chelsea, Massachusetts, Apr. 12. One-quarter of town is destroyed by fire; 19 deaths reported.
Chicago, May 10. Socialist National Convention nominates Eugene V. Debs of Indiana for president.
Washington, D.C., May 30. In response to last year's financial panic. Congress enacts Al-drich-Vreeland Act. establishing National Monetary Commission.
Washington, D.C., June 23. Diplomatic relations between United States and Venezuela are severed because of latter's unwillingness to compensate for injuries sustained by Americans during recent upheavals.
Rome, June 29. Pope Pius X issues encyclical Sapienti Con-silio, declaring that United States is no longer a missionary area.
Springfield, Illinois, Aug. 15. When a white woman claims a Negro raped her, community of Negroes is attacked and some are lynched.
Yellowstone National Park, Aug. 24. On road between Old Faithful and Thumb, one man holds up 17 coaches in a day, assisted by a strategic bend in road.
Detroit, Mich., Oct. 14. Chicago Cubs defeat Detroit Tigers in World Series, four games to one.
Nyack, New York, Dec. 27. Followers of doomsday prophet Lee J. Spangler sit atop a mountain awaiting end of world dressed in white gowns, "specially made for occasion."
New York City. Ex-Lax Company founded by Max Kiss, who promotes his product with filmed advertisements in movie theaters.
Utah. Dinosaur bones discovered near Jensen.
California. Construction begins on Owens Valley Aqueduct, to bring water to Los Angeles.
Boston. Van Wyck Brooks's The Wine of the Puritans published.


1908 Eagle - 1908 Indian Head Eagle - 1908 $10 - 1908 Motto Eagle, Matte Proof - 1908 Indian Head Eagle

US Rare Coin Investments 2003 - 2015 U.S. Rare Coin Investments

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