Coin Profile: Gold Indian Head

The Gold Indian Head Coin is one of the United States’ most beautiful and unique coins. Because of this, it is one of the most coveted coins, beloved by collectors everywhere for its unique incused design, rarity, and historical value.

For your convenience, we’ve gathered together all of the information you need to know about the Gold Indian Head Coin, so you can be an informed collector and admirer of this great American coin.

History

Like the St. Gaudens Double Eagle, the Gold Indian Head coin was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Augustus Saint Gaudens was originally commissioned to design all the denominations of the coin, but he died before he could complete the design. The Gold Indian Head coins were intended to be part of the same collection as the St. Gaudens Double Eagle, which were all commissioned by President Roosevelt in an effort to beautify American coinage.

Bela Lyon Pratt, who was referred for the job by a friend of President Roosevelt’s, designed both sides of the Gold Indian Head coins in place of Augustus Saint Gaudens.

Design

Obverse

Bela Lyon Pratt designed the obverse of the coin. This side features a Native American man’s head. He is facing left and wearing a traditional feather headdress.

Thirteen stars line the right and left edges of the coin. The word “LIBERTY” is along the top of the edge, and the mint date is along the bottom edge. Slightly above the mint date, you can see the initials of the designer, BLP.

One especially distinctive feature of this coin is that it’s incused, or recessed, meaning the design is indented into the coin, as opposed to a raised design, which is how coins are usually minted. In fact, the Gold Indian Head coin is the only coin ever minted in the United States to feature an incused design.

Reverse

The reverse of the Gold Indian Coin was also designed by Bela Lyon Pratt, and it features an eagle that is facing left. The entire body of the eagle is visible, as he perches on an olive branch, symbolizing peace and harmony.

Across the top of the coin are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” The motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “out of many, one,” is featured on the left side of the coin. Another motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” which is featured on all US coinage, is on the right side of the eagle.

The denomination of the coin is listed along the bottom edge. Gold Indian Head coins come in four denominations—$2.5, $5, $10 and $20. The denominations have similar designs, with the $10 and $20 differing slightly from the others in the style of the Native American.

Specifications

$2.5 Gold Indian Head

The diameter of the $2.5 Gold Indian Head coin is 18mm, or 0.71in. It weighs 4.18g, or 0.134 troy ounces. It is composed of 90% gold and 10% copper, and has reeded edges.

$5 Gold Indian Head

The diameter of the $5 Gold Indian Head coin is 21.6mm, or 0.85in. It weighs 8.359g, or 0.269 troy ounces. It is composed of 90% gold and 10% copper, and has reeded edges.

$10 Gold Indian Head

The diameter of the $10 Gold Indian Head coin is 26.92mm. It weighs .48375 troy ounces. It is composed of 90% gold and 10% copper, and has reeded edges.

Minting

The Gold Indian Head coin was first minted from 1908–1916, and then again from 1926–1933. President Roosevelt’s Gold Confiscation Act of 1933 ended the production of Gold Indian Head coins forever.

The $2.5 Indian Heads were minted in Denver and Philadelphia, and the $5 Indian Heads were minted in Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. On both variations of the coin, the mint mark is located on the reverse of the coin to the left of the arrow, with the exception of the coins minted in Philadelphia. Those coins do not have mint marks.

Value

Obviously, the different denominations of the coin have different values, due to their total amount of gold content. The $20 Gold Indian Head has the highest gold content, making it worth the most out of the denominations. But these coins are also valued as a collector’s item.

Because the coins were minted for so few years, and many were destroyed or lost during the Gold Confiscation Act of 1933, they can be great collector coins, making them valuable to the numismatist wanting to add to their collection. At Nationwide, we carry the $2.5 and $10 Gold Indian Head coins.

Investing

Gold Indian Head coins are great investment pieces, not only because of their gold content, but more importantly for their historical value. As the only incused coins in United States history, they are rare and valuable, in addition to being beautiful.

It’s likely that these coins will always hold their high value, because of their unique design and rarity, making them great items to add to your bullion and numismatic collection!

National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History
National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History