Series notes: $5 Indian Gold

The $5 Indian Head gold half eagles were produced from 1908 through 1929 and were designed by Bela Lyon Pratt, a sculptor who studied under renowned artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The $5 Indian Head gold coin features an incuse design, which is unlike any other United States coin, with the exception of the identically executed, but smaller, $2.50 gold Indian Head quarter eagle. This incuse design, in which the lettering and devices are sunken into the coin rather than proud to the surface, caused much public concern among people who erroneously thought bacteria would collect in the recesses of the coin and spread illness to the masses.

The series was struck continuously from 1908 through 1916 then went on hiatus until one last year of production in 1929. On the whole, $5 Indian Head half eagles are more or less equally common among most circulated issues with the notable exceptions of the 1909-O, 1911-D, and 1929 issue from Philadelphia. Each of these is scarce, with the 1929 issue made to the tune of just 662,000 pieces and serving as the series key date with but a handful of survivors. The 1909-O has a tiny mintage of 34,200 pieces and trades in the four- and five-figure range, while the 1911-D saw only 72,500 struck and is extremely scarce in the lower grades and rare in the higher circulated levels or better.

Though the bulk of the issues are readily available in circulated grades, many $5 Indian Head half eagles are conditional rarities in the Gem range. This is particularly true with the mintmarked issues, which are relatively common in AU or lower but tough in the better uncirculated grades.

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