Indian Head Eagle ($10)

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Indian Head Eagle ($10)

indian head eagle gold coin

Coin details

Mint dates: 1907-33
Designer: Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Gross weight: 16.718 g
Gold content: 0.48375 troy oz
Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper
Diameter: 26.92

After successfully landing the highly esteemed, but ailing sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the some aspect of US coinage in 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt was swift in asking the artist to make models for several different denominations of gold coins. In 1905 the artist agreed and thus began a fantastic tale of presidential coin design.

By 1907, Saint-Gaudens had painstakingly designed obverse and reverse of each coin as a harmonious unit. He originally resurrected the Liberty Head Eagle ($10) design for the one cent piece, but Roosevelt was enamored with it and asked if it might be used on the $10 piece, with the caveat that “something uniquely American” be added to it, the Indian headdress. The artist put up no struggle, and dutifully added the headdress, causing a bit of consternation among the staff of the Mint.

With President Roosevelt determined to have the coins ultimately represent his vision of what a strong nation should have in its purse and bank vault, no one, aside from the infamous Mint designer Charles E. Barber, dared to point out the incongruity of the lettering of Liberty in English, atop a native headpiece that a woman would never wear.

Like the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, the Indian Head Eagle had problems with its high relief design; the appearance of a “fim”, and extra tag of metal beyond the ridge, was especially troubling and had to be redesigned into a rim. The Indian Head Eagle also caused a firestorm of public discontent when it was revealed that, due to Teddy Roosevelt’s disdain for the phrase “In God We Trust” appearing on money (he felt it truly a debasement of God), the words had been removed from the coin. This prompted Congress into action; they ultimately passed a bill mandating the phrase consistently appear on all currency of the United States. Five hundred coins of this design were struck in November of 1907. Eventually all but 50 were melted back down. It is an unusual and rare coin indeed.

Eventually the revised coin went into circulation in 1908 and was minted every year from 1908 to 1916. They were then struck occasionally at two different mints: in 1920 (San Francisco), 1926 (Philadelphia), 1930 with their final issue form the Philadelphia mint in 1932 and 1933. They ceased to be struck in 1933 upon Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 6102, also known as the Gold Confiscation Act.