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HALF EAGLES - INDIAN HEAD HALF EAGLES (1908-1929)
Indian Head Half Eagle

Half Eagles - Pratt’s Indian Head Half Eagles - In 1908 the new Indian Head Half Eagles were produced. Designed by Bela Lyon Pratt, the new Indian Head Half Eagles had two very different innovations related to its design. One was the realism used in the portrait of the Indian brave on the obverse, and the other was the use of incuse design details. President Theodore Roosevelt, influenced by his friend, Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, wanted the coinage of the country redesigned. His “pet crime” was to bypass the mediocre Charles Barber, the Mint Engraver. Roosevelt, who was now in his second term of office, wanted to reform the coinage of the United States, which he felt was “atrociously hideous”. He wanted the Indian Head half eagle to use an American Indian as an emblem of liberty and to use the incuse design of the ancients.

The obverse of the Indian Head Half Eagle shows a profile view of an authentic looking brave facing left. He is wearing a full headdress. Above him is LIBERTY and below is the date. Six five-pointed stars are on the left and seven are on the right. The reverse of the Indian Head half eagle shows a standing eagle, reminiscent of the reverse of Saint-Gaudens’ eagle coin. Pratt fit the four inscriptions on the reverse without it seeming overcrowded. E PLURIBUS UNUM is in the left field, and IN GOD WE TRUST is in the right. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the words separated by dots is above, and FIVE DOLLARS is below. The eagle stands on a bundle of arrows that resembles the Roman fasces, symbol of the power to kill, and holds an olive branch, symbol of peace.

The use of realism in the obverse portrait was innovative because prior designed Indian head motifs used stylized busts and fanciful war bonnets. Although the name and tribe of Pratt’s Indian brave are unknown, he is clearly authentic looking. Pratt’s use of this figure is seen as an extension of a trend started in 1899 with the portrait of “Running Antelope” on the five dollar silver certificate.

The incuse design of the coin was also an innovation for United States coinage. No regularly circulating coin ever made use of this process before. It was criticized by numismatists and people in banking and commerce. They felt that the coins would not stack, could be easily counterfeited, and were unsanitary because dirt would get into the incused features. However, despite this opposition, the public was indifferent, and the coins remained in production and circulation until 1929, when the Great Depression caused general economic upheaval.

Bela Lyon Pratt was a former student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, hence, the reverse of the coin in homage to him. Pratt studied sculpture in Paris at the Ecole des Beau Arts. When he returned to the United States, he became an instructor at the Boston Museum School. Pratt was considered a prominent sculptor and medal maker. One of his works was a medal he made for the bicentennial of Yale University. Another was a medal for the President of Harvard University. In addition to medals, he also made busts and other sculptures. In 1915 he won a gold medal for an exhibit of seventeen pieces at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in California.

The coin was minted from 1908 to 1916 and then again in 1929. There are twenty-four different combinations of dates and mintmarks. In 1909 four mints made Indian Head half eagle coins. They were Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In 1916, coins were made only in San Francisco, and in 1929 they were made only in Philadelphia. The highest mintage was in 1909-D with 3,423,560, and the lowest was 1909-O with 34,200. The key coin in the series is the 1909-O. Authentication is highly recommended for the 1909-O because of a number of counterfeits that was made by adding a mintmark to a Philadelphia issue. (All USRCI coins are guaranteed genuine and are authenticated by one of the major grading services.) A semi-key date is the 1911-D. It had an original mintage of 72,500.

Specifications:
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 8.359 grams (129.0 grains) (.2687 troy ounces)
Diameter: 21.6 millimeters
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
Gold Content: 7.523 grams (116.097 grains) (0.2418 troy ounces)

DATE NOTES
Common date in Gem condition; usually lustrous; rare above MS66 with only 8 certified by both services, the highest of which is a single MS69 example. Proofs have dark, matte surfaces that were unpopular with collectors. The finest certified is a single PF68. 1908 $5 Indian NGC PF67
Granular surfaces not too lustrous; rare above MS64 with only 15 in Gem or above grades. The highest certified is a single MS67 example.
Somewhat common date; usually frosty and attractive; rare above MS66 with 15 certified MS67 and up. The finest are two certified MS68.
Common date in most Mint State grades; rare above Gem; the finest certified are 13 in MS66. Proofs used lighter gold Roman finish; only 41 to 49 are known to exist today. A single matte proof was also struck.
Common date in most Mint State grades; rare above Gem; the finest are 7 in MS66.
Key date, rare issue; usually sharply struck with O/O; only 34 certified above MS62 by both services; the finest known is a single MS66 example. Also found with a Weak O variety. 1909-O Indian Head $5 NGC AU53, 1909-O Half Eagle Indian NGC MS60
Rare above MS62; only 6 certified above MS64; the finest certified is a single MS67 example.
Usually sharply struck and lustrous; easily available in grades up to MS64; 47 have been certified MS65. The finest known are 3 in MS66.
Proofs used lighter gold Roman finish; only 61 to 74 are known to exist today.1910 Indian Head $5, NGC PF66, Roman Proof
Usually sharply struck with bold mintmark; common in lower Mint State condition; only 13 certified Gem and above. The finest certified are 5 MS67 examples.
Usually sharply struck with bold mintmark and satiny mint luster; scarce in Mint State grades above MS62. The finest certified is a single MS66 example. Also seen with a Weak S variety.
Often found with weakness on headdress feathers and average luster; scarce in Gem condition; the finest certified are 2 in MS66.
Proofs of this year used the dark matte finish. Only 61 to 79 are known to exist.
Key date in series; scarce above MS62; only 5 have been certified in MS65 with none higher.
Scarce above MS63; rare in Gem condition; the finest certified is a single MS66 example. Also found with a Weak S and S/S.
Often found with weakness on headdress feathers and average luster; usually yellow gold with a hint of green; scarce in Gem condition; finest certified are 3 in MS66. Proofs of this year used a fine sandblast finish. Only 71 to 89 are known to exist. 1912 $5 Indian NGC PF66
Key date in Mint State condition; usually poorly struck with weak mintmark and muted luster; the finest certified are 2 in MS65 condition. Also found with a Weak S variety.
Usually found with strong strike and lustrous; scarce in Gem condition; finest certified are 6 in MS66. Proofs of this year used a fine sandblast finish. Only 51 to 64 are known to exist.
Usually poorly struck with weak mintmark; difficult to obtain in grades above MS63; the finest certified are 3 in MS66. Also found with the Weak S variety. 1913-S Indian Head $5 PCGS MS64 CAC
Usually found with granular surfaces and strong luster; scarce in Gem condition; the finest certified are 2 in MS66 condition. Proofs used the fine sandblast finish that was made slightly coarser. Only 61 to 74 are known to exist.
Usually sharply struck with lustrous surfaces and less granularity; rare in Gem condition; the finest certified are 3 in MS66 condition.
Usually well struck with subdued mint luster; scarce in MS63 and rare in MS64; finest certified is a single MS65 example.
Usually well struck and lustrous; Scarce in Gem condition with none certified higher than MS65. Pieces dated 1915-D are counterfeit. Proofs used the fine sandblast finish that was made slightly coarser. Only 41 to 49 are known to exist. 1915 $5 Indian NGC MS65
Usually well struck and lustrous; Scarce in Gem condition with none certified higher than MS65. Also found with Weak S variety.
Usually well struck with good luster; rare in Gem condition; the finest certified are 5 in MS66. Also found with Weak S variety.
Usually well struck but with weak lowest feather; very scarce - many of this date may have been melted. The finest certified are 15 in MS65. No proofs were made for this date.


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Indian Head Half Eagles Information on Pratts Indian Head Half Eagles

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