Ford Motor Company was, he said, initiating the greatest revolution in the matter of rewards for its workers ever known to the industrial world. The half eagles being minted that year had more in common with Buffalo nickels than size: Both carried portraits of realistic-looking American Indians.
In another respect, however, these Indian Head gold pieces are unlike any other coins produced before or since by Uncle Sam: Their designs and inscriptions are sunken below the surface of the coins, rather than being raised. This innovative technique was quite daring, for no other modern coins had ever used it. In normal times, in fact, the idea might well have been scrapped.But new ideas were welcome in national affairs in the early 1900s, thanks in large measure to one larger-than-life individual: President Theodore Roosevelt. The restless, dynamic Roosevelt took a personal interest in virtually all aspects of the American sceneincluding the nations coinageand left his personal imprint on many areas. In 1908, he turned his attention to the two remaining gold coins, the half eagle and quarter eagle. The idea of recessing the coins features came from William Sturgis Bigelow, a Boston physician and art lover who happened to be a close friend of Roosevelts. Bigelow had seen incuse relief in Egyptian art works at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and he piqued the presidents interest with his notion of adapting this technique to U.
With Roosevelts blessing, he engaged a fellow Bostonian, noted sculptor Bela-Lyon Pratt, to prepare coinage models, and Pratt developed designs pairing an Indian brave on the obverse with an eagle in repose on the reverse. The new coins must have bewildered many Americans when they first entered circulation near the end of 1908.
Beyond their unusual relief, they also represented the first fundamental design change in the two denominations in nearly 70 years. Other than the addition of the words IN GOD WE TRUST in 1866, the previous half eaglewhich carried a portrait of Liberty with a coronet in her hairhad been basically the same since its origin in 1839. Consternation, not confusion, was what some people felt when they saw the coins. One of the loudest critics was Philadelphia coin dealer Samuel H.
Chapman, who took issue with everything from the virility of the Indian (he described the portrait as emaciated) to the health hazard posed by the sunken design (he predicted that this would make the coins a great receptacle for dirt and conveyor of disease). Mints chief engraver, Charles E.
Jealously defending his turf, Barber did make seemingly unneeded modifications in Pratts designs, just as he had done earlier with Saint-Gaudens models. But in the final analysis, Roosevelts support was all that mattered. Indian Head half eagles were issued annually from 1908 through 1916; in one year, 1909, four different mints produced them (branch-mint issues are denoted by a mint mark to the left of the fasces on the reverse). After 1916, production was suspended for 13 years; it then resumed for one last hurrah in 1929 at the Philadelphia Mint before the series ended for good in the face of the Great Depression. The 1929 half eagle is the big key in the series, worth several thousand dollars even in circulated grades.
Records list its mintage as 662,000, but the vast majority apparently were melted. Other scarce dates include 1909-O, 1911-D and 1908-S, all with mintages under 100,000.
Small numbers of matte proofs were made every year from 1908 through 1915. The item "1909-O INDIAN HEAD $5 NGC MS 60" is in sale since Friday, January 25, 2019. This item is in the category "Coins & Paper Money\Coins\ US\Gold (Pre-1933)\$5, Half Eagle".The seller is "rarecoinwholesalersca" and is located in Irvine. This item can be shipped to United States.