Gold. The symbol of kings and self-made men of wealth, power and social status. That which lures and captivates, conjuring up visions and dreams. This weeks blog covers my personal favorite of all United States gold issues. The Quarter and Half Eagle Indian Head. While many consider gold coinage to be out of reach, the 2 1/2 and Five Dollar becomes an exception for any collector on the tightest of budgets. Following a quick search, common date specimens in the low to mid-grade mint state range may be had for under five-hundred dollars. Along with affordability this thirteen year series has one of, if not the highest, profit potentials of all gold coinage. Enjoy!
The 2 1/2 Dollar Quarter Eagle. Struck in Philadelphia and Denver from 1908 to 1915, resuming again after World War One between 1925 and 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. At 18mm in diameter (Dime size) it's mintages run around 500,000, the 1911d being the lowest at 55,680 while the 1913 holds the highest at 722,000.
The 5 Dollar Half Eagle. Struck in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco, with a single year New Orleans, from 1908 through 1916 (for the same reason as the Quarter Eagle) resuming for one year with 1929 Philadelphia issue. At 21.6 mm in diameter (nickel size) nearly all mintages are below 1 million, the 1909o being the lowest at 34,200 while two break the million mark.
With the mintage figures known it becomes easy to see the hidden value in a true sleeper series. While a common date may be had for near melt value, as compared to say a like-wise dated double eagle, the semi and key dates generally fall below the value of the same Twenty-Dollar. Also of note, the mint state populations of Quarter and Half Eagles are higher which makes for a better buy comparative to other denominations based solely on grade.
The origins of the Quarter and Half Eagles began with President Theodore Roosevelt's desire to redesign our nations coinage into something more inspirational. Contrary to common belief, only the Eagle and Double were designed by Augustus Saint-Guadens as he died in August of 1908 before completion of the smaller two denominations. However, they were based on his sketches which leads to this belief. The honor of these two beautiful denominations falls upon sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt, a student and close friend to the former. With the death of Saint-Guadens, Roosevelt put pressure on the mint to hire Pratt so no delay would befall production of what was started. The plaster models (galvanos) which Pratt created were both attractive and unique. Unlike other U.S. coinage, who's design elements rise above the surface of the Quarter and Half Eagle are in relief but recessed so that the highest points are below the plane. Or incuse as it's termed. A first for any gold coin, not just in the United States, designed in such a manner since the 4th Egyptian Dynasty. The mint mark being the highest point as it was hand-stamped into the dies.
Another little known fact is that the two smaller of the Indian Heads were originally to be downsized versions of the now famous Double-Eagle. In May of 1907, Roosevelt thought that the two smaller coins who's dies were not yet complete should bear similar but different designs than those of the newly struck Eagle and Double Eagle in a letter to the United States Mint. However, Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, had already prepared dies of the downsized version but ran into problems, stating that the legends and other devices would be difficult to fit the design of these small size coins. This was the time in which Roosevelt recommended Bela Lyon Pratt.
Thanks for reading. Go for the Gold!