1909-O Indian Half Eagle NGC AU55

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O-Mint $5 Indian Rarity!

The New Orleans Mint suspended coinage operations on April 1, 1909, after a meager mintage of 34,200 Indian half eagles had been struck.

The 1909-O is the only Indian five from the New Orleans facility, an important consideration for branch mint type collectors.

The majority of the small mintage circulated heavily at the time of issue and most examples seen are in the VF-XF grade range today.

Mint State examples are very rare, making  AU specimens, like the present coin, a good balance of quality and value.

Listed at $18,800 in the CDN CPG (Grey Sheet), $18,350 in the NGC Price Guide and $18,500 in Trends.

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Indian Head $5 Half Eagle

Indian Head $5 Half Eagle

Michele Orzano - 

Incused design feature sparks controversy By Michele Orzano
COIN WORLD Staff The early 1900s brought a sense of excitement and adventure to U.S. coinage design. Between 1907 and 1921 some of the best American artists created designs for U.S. circulating coins: Victor David Brenner's Lincoln cent, James Earle Fraser's Indian Head 5-cent coin, Adolph Weinman's Winged Liberty Head dime and Walking Liberty half dollar, Hermon MacNeil's Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and Anthony de Francisci's Peace dollar.

The inspiration for much of the change can be credited to President Theodore Roosevelt's love of classic art, especially that found on Greek and Roman coins. His artistic interests lead to friendship with leading sculptors and artists of the day. Those friendships provided the spark for a revolution of sorts in American coinage that would move through all denominations of U.S. coinage including gold coins.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by Roosevelt in 1905 to redesign the country's gold coinage and the cent.

The famed sculptor began preparing designs for the cent and the Indian Head gold $10 eagle and the $20 double eagle but was not able to offer new designs for other gold coins before he died in 1907.

His cent designs were never completed.

That is when a young Boston sculptor and artist, Bela Lyon Pratt, entered the picture and the numismatic history books. A student of Saint-Gaudens at the Art Students League, Pratt also served as one of his assistants for a time. When Saint-Gaudens died, Pratt was given the assignment to complete the redesign efforts his mentor had started.

Pratt's work can be seen in his Indian Head designs for the gold $2.50 quarter eagle and the gold $5 half eagle.

The Indian Head design for both coins was introduced in 1908 and received mixed reviews. Some praised his boldness in stepping away from the allegorical Liberty concept and replacing it with an intense-looking Indian wearing a feathered headdress and facing left. The obverse design was the first real Indian to appear on U.S. coins. Pratt's reverse design shows a majestic, standing eagle with denomination below the eagle.

The designs are the same for both denominations.

Pratt's new designs replaced Christian Gobrecht's Coronet-crowned Liberty design used on the obverse of the quarter eagle from 1840 to 1907 and on the obverse of the half eagle from 1839 to 1908. The eagle with shield reverse was first used on John Reich's Capped Draped Bust half eagle beginning in 1807.

Variations of Reich's eagle design continued to appear on half eagles through 1908. The way the designs were struck on the coins earned Pratt some unpleasant comments. Pratt's design features devices in normal relief but recessed below the level of the fields. "This return to an ancient Egyptian concept called incuse-relief was advanced by Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. Bigelow was influenced by the "1837" Bonomi pattern crown of Queen Victoria, actually struck in similar incuse-relief style for her 1887 Golden Jubilee for antiquarian J. Rochelle Thomas.

The design features on the $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle were strongly criticized, with some suggesting that the "incused" portions would "permit enough germs to accumulate to prove a health hazard."

The reference to the health concern came from Samuel H. Chapman, a Philadelphia coin dealer, whose allegations included the charge that the incused areas would be "a great receptacle for dirt and conveyor of disease, and the coin will be the most unhygienic ever issued." In fact, the new coins were a success and were issued until 1929 without causing health problems. Pratt's designs for the quarter eagle and half eagle remain popular today. 

Indian Head $5 half eagle

Date of authorization: Jan. 18, 1837

Dates of issue: 1908-1929

Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt

Engraver: Charles Barber

Diameter: 21.54 mm/0.85 inch

Weight: 8.36 grams/0.27 ounce

Metallic content :90% gold, 10% copper 

Weight of pure silver: 7.52 grams/0.24 ounce

Edge: Reeded

Mint mark: Reverse lower left

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