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INDIAN HEAD FIVE DOLLARS OR HALF EAGLE (1908-1929)

1909-O Half Eagle

1909-O Half Eagle Indian

1909-O Half Eagle Indian. Extremely rare date Indian Half Eagle in strickly uncirculated condition. This specimen is found very rarely and as thus is a key in the entire Indian Half Eagle gold series. Could be a long time before you see another one of these. This issue is one of the rarest in the entire series, ranking as the fourth most difficult to obtain in gem MS-65 grades behind the San Francisco condition-rarity trio of 1912-S, 1914-S, and 1915-S. Examples are generally found sharply impressed, often with the mintmark doubled to the left. This is one of the most sought-after issues in the series because of the low mintage and general rarity in any Mint State grade. It has long been considered a key date and is always in feverish demand. Two gems have been offered in the past decade: one sold in November 1998, a NGC MS-65 coin for $178,500; another in May 1998, which was a gem Uncirculated specimen that realized $374,000 and may, indeed, be the finest known of this date. The Price coin traces its pedigree to the Eliasberg Collection. A gem example is also in the collection of the Smithsonian.

1909-O $5 or Half Eagle ( 1909-O Half Eagle Indian )
PCGS No: 8515
Mintage Circulation strikes: 34,200
Proofs: 0
Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Diameter: ±21.6 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Copper - 10%
Weight: ±129 grains (±8.24 grams)
Edge: Reeded
Mintmark: "O" (for New Orleans, LA) left of the arrowheads on the reverse.

1909-O Indian Head Half Eagle
The 1909-O has the lowest mintage in the Indian Head series and it is a rare coin in any condition. Because of its rarity, especially in mint state, this date is generally overgraded and therefore it is not as common in the AU and Unc. categories as the relatively numerous auction records might lead one to believe. Most known specimens are in the VF to EF range and strictly graded AU examples are seldom available. I consider this date to be extremely rare in full mint state and have seen only a few at that level, the finest being the nearly perfect gem in the Lilly Collection in the Smithsonian Institution.
The mintmark on genuine specimens is always weak, particularly on the left side, and all specimens should be carefully inspected to be sure they are not really the common 1909-D .

PRATT'S INDIAN HEAD DESIGN (1908-29)
One of the fulfillments of Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's "pet crime" plan-improving coinage designs, bypassing the stupefying mediocrity of Mint Engraver Barber-was issue of gold coins in the new design by Bela Lyon Pratt. The story behind this design is in Chap. 33, Sect, viii, introductory text. To this same "pet crime" project we owe the magnificent St. Gaudens eagles and double eagles, and ultimately also the Lincoln cent and buffalo nickel, undisputedly making this period the zenith of American coinage art, at least for sheer numbers of excellent designs introduced to circulation. (Barber got his revenge by watering down the designs.)
Nevertheless, hardly were the first Pratt half eagles out of the Mint before traditionalists began attacking the design on flimsy grounds. Earlier I cited S. Hudson Chapman's objections. A more serious criticism which could have been raised is that Barber ordered mintmarks to be placed just 1. of arrowheads, failing to notice that the O, S, or D will be weakly struck and wear down in that location more quickly than any other detail.

As a result, some of the rarer dates like 1908 S and 1909 O come so weak that mintmarks are difficult to read with certainty, and occasionally the ungodly either affix an O to a genuine Philadelphia coin or alter 1909 D to simulate the rarer mint-mark.
A consequence of a different kind is the 1916 without mint-mark S. Though the Philadelphia Mint issued no half eagles in 1916, at least two survivors lack the mintmark. These are generally thought to be 1916 S's weakly struck so that S does not show. The only one I have examined is strong enough to make that conclusion dubious. Alternative possibilities include foreign matter in the die clogging the mintmark, lapping to remove clash marks, and inadvertent omission of mintmark. As neither specimen reported is uncirculated, the question remains undecidable.

Aside from this var., the rarest Pratt half eagles in mint state are 1909 O, 1915 S, 1911 D, and most other S-Mint issues. In other grades, 1929 is unquestionably rarest. It remained unrecognized until March 1944, when a specimen estimated at a routine $25 at auction brought nine times that figure. During ensuing decades, at least 60 specimens (mostly mint state with varying amounts of bag marks) were dispersed from original rolls; a fourth roll of 20 remained in private hands in 1978. Dispersal has been slow to avoid depressing the market.
Proofs 1908-15 are much rarer than those of the preceding decade, rarer than their reported mintages suggest. Doubtless heirs mistakenly spent some, and turned in others during the Great Recall of 1934. Reportedly, many of the [75P] of 1915, with some unsold 1914's, went to the Mint's melting pots in Jan. 1917. These proofs use several variants of the matte, sandblast, and satin finishes. The list herein (as in Breen {1977}) is doubtless incomplete, but any authentic proof of an unlisted finish will be an extreme rarity. Fraud artists have simulated proofs by sandblasting business strikes; but the real proofs have much more sharpness of detail (especially on feathers). Edges are much sharper than on business strikes. Some of these fraudulently altered coins aroused suspicion because the sandblast finish covered nicks and scratches. Authentication is recommended.
The Coinage Act of July 23, 1965 (PL 89-81), Sect. 392, has apparently restored legal-tender status to half eagles.

PRATT'S INDIAN HEAD DESIGN
Designer, Bela Lyon Pratt. Engraver, Charles E. Barber, after Pratt. Mints, Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (mintmark O), San Francisco (S), Denver (D). Mintmarks 1. of arrowheads. Physical Specifications, Authorizing Acts, as before.
Grade range, VERY GOOD to UNC.; not collected below VERY FINE. FINE: Knot of hair cord visible; partial feather contours both sides; full date, letters, and stars, but no central details. VERY FINE: Over half headband details; hair-cord knot clear; partial internal details to Indian's feathers; partial details on breast and leg feathers, over half wing-feather details. EXTREMELY FINE: Isolated tiny rubbed spots only; partial mint luster. UNCIRCULATED: No trace of wear; look on cheekbone, headdress below BE, and shoulder of wing (below back of eagle's neck). NOTE: Mintmarked coins are often weak in centers and at mintmarks.



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1909-O Half Eagle - 1909-O Indian Head Half Eagle - 1909-O $5

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