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1913-S Indian Head Half Eagle

1911 Indian Head Half Eagle

Few coins have as much beauty, intricacy of design and appeal as the Indian Half Eagle. A proud native American chieftain, the model unnamed and his tribe unknown, dominates the obverse of the Half Eagle; on the reverse, an American eagle rests atop a bundle of arrows and an olive branch, symbols of war and peace. When the coin was first circulated, it caused a great deal of controversy. The main concern was that the recessed devices housed disease-carrying bacteria. Thus the public was understandably reluctant to preserve even uncirculated specimens for generations to follow. Furthermore, because Pratt did not choose to use rims to protect the surface of the coin, uncirculated examples are scarce and superb gems are virtually unheard of.

Considering the date and mint, the 1913-S Indian Head half eagle is frequently found with an average or worse strike, often with peripheral weakness. The mintmark is normally encountered quite mushy and lacking any central definition. A rare exception can be found with sharpness and luster throughout. In gem MS-65 or finer grades, this date is one of the most difficult to secure, with a mere five coins graded as such currently by services, placing this date as the sixth most difficult coin of the series to locate in higher grades.

1913-S Indian Head $5 PCGS MS64- CAC
PCGS No: 8526
Mintage: 408,000
Circulation strikes:  
Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Diameter: ±21.6 millimeters
Metal content: Gold - 90%
Copper - 10%
Weight: ±129 grains (±8.24 grams)
Edge: Reeded
Mintmark: "S" (for San Francisco) left of the arrowheads on the reverse.

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.


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.


1913-S Half Eagle - 1913-S Indian Head Half Eagle - 1913-S $5 Indian

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

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