The Liberty Head series of gold coins was long in the tooth by the end of the 19th century. All major American circulating coinage, in fact, had retained the same designs since the late 1830s. Popular opinion thus desired a new coinage to highlight the United States’ increasing importance on the world stage.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ design for the double eagle coin was initially proposed for use on the half eagle ($5) and quarter eagle ($2.50) gold coins. But the Mint believed that the coins were too small to be able to fit the inscriptions necessary on them. The high relief of the St. Gaudens double eagle also led to fears of premature wear and inability to stack the coins.
President Theodore Roosevelt consulted with friends of his on a new design that would allow the coins to stack easily while also being of unique artistic merit. The result was the Indian Head design for the half eagle and quarter eagle.
The obverse of the coin featured a male American Indian with a full headdress, while the reverse featured an eagle similar to Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ design for the $10 eagle. But unlike every other coin that had ever been produced in the United States, in which the design of the coin was raised above the surface of the coin, the design of the new half eagle and quarter eagle was recessed below the surface of the coin.
That recessed design led to initial difficulty in production, and even though the coins were easy to stack they were difficult to sort using coin-sorting machines of the time. The design, too, faced criticism for the gaunt look of the Indian on the obverse.
The coins were never terribly popular with consumers, and thus saw limited production and low use. Consequently, many of them are still able to be found in good condition. The half eagle was minted from 1908 to 1916 and again in 1929, while the quarter eagle was minted from 1908 to 1915 and again from 1925 to 1929.
Due to that limited mintage, premiums on these coins are higher than on many other gold coins. Expect to pay premiums of about 20-25% for the half eagles, and about 75% for the quarter eagles.
Like other older circulating gold coins, the Indian Head half eagle and quarter eagle coins are not eligible for investment through a gold or precious metals IRA. But for investors looking to invest in a piece of American history and a truly unique coin, the Indian Head half and quarter eagle are an excellent choice.
- Half Eagle: 8.36 g
- Quarter Eagle: 4.18 g
- Half Eagle: 0.2419 troy oz.
- Quarter Eagle: 0.1209 troy oz.
- Half Eagle: 21.6 mm
- Quarter Eagle: 18 mm
- Half Eagle: 1.4 mm
- Quarter Eagle: 1.14 mm