It is the first US gold coin to replace the emblematic figure of Miss Liberty with the likeness of a Native American Chief! The reverse shows a dominant view of a bald eagle standing with wings folded.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to consider owning this coin now, is that it is the first US coin struck using a revolutionary "incuse" design.
Reasons why this coin is so scarce:
The mint produced these coins for less than 13 years and the low production never exceeded 3/4 of a million pieces during any of those years.
The "Incused" design represents a departure from all previous United States coinage.
There are no raised edges and the major design features are sunken into the coin and below the surface. The lack of a raised edge caused these coins to wear out quickly and they had to be replaced with new coins.
All old coins were removed from circulation, melted down and the gold was recycled.
The public was concerned that the new coins would spread germs --- an unfounded fear --- and so they were not hoarded as with other gold coins.
The Gold Act of 1933 effectively removed all gold coins from circulation. This recall came just four years after production of the $2-1/2 ended.
At the time all banks were required to turn in any gold coins on hand.
Once the coins were turned into the US government they were melted down and recycled into gold bars.
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Indian Head $2.50 Quarter Eagle
Indian Head quarter eagle never a health hazard By Michele Orzano
COIN WORLD Staff Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by President Roosevelt in 1905 to redesign the nation’s gold coinage.
The famed sculptor began in earnest, preparing designs for the Indian Head $10 gold eagle and the $20 double eagle – but was not able to offer new designs for other gold coins before he died in 1907.
That's 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 coin and the gold $5 half eagle coin.
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 actual 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.
What earned Pratt some unpleasant remarks was the way the designs were struck on the coins.
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 Roosevelt. A knowledgeable collector, 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," according to the Comprehensive Catalog & Encyclopedia of United States Coins, from the publishers of Coin World.
The $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle designs 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 incuse 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 any health problems.
Despite the complaints, Pratt's designs for the quarter eagle and half eagle remain popular in the 21st century.
Date of authorization: Jan. 18, 1837
Dates of issue: 1908-1929
Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Engraver: Charles Barber
Diameter: 17.78 mm/0.70 inch
Weight: 4.18 grams/0.13 ounce
Metallic content:9 0% gold, 10% copper
Weight of pure silver: 3.76 grams/0.12 ounce
Mintmark: Reverse lower left
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