HomeGold BullionGold CoinsPre-1933 US Gold Coins$10 Indian Head Gold Eagles
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Coin collectors appreciate a rare and historical piece, and the $10 Indian Head Gold Eagle series has those vital qualities. First made under the order of one of the United States’ most memorable and larger-than-life presidents and almost completely obliterated at the order of another of the country’s most well-known leaders, the Indian Head is a slice of America’s past. Each surviving coin is an artistic artifact, a chunk of living history, and a valuable investment.
The Indian Head Eagle was one of several designs to come out of President Theodore Roosevelt’s coin redesign project, which involved the President’s friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Roosevelt was dissatisfied with a perceived lack of artistry in Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber’s design work and brought his friend Augustus in to revise those designs which would not take congressional approval, including four gold coin denominations. Initially, all four coins were to have a uniform design, but he later decided to commission designs for each piece.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a well-known sculptor who dabbled in coin and medal design. He was also the founder of the famed Cornish Art Colony, which attracted many of the preeminent figures in the American art world of the time. Saint-Gaudens was previously involved in controversy when his design for a medal to be given to the winning exhibitions featured an image of an unclothed young boy on the reverse. The design was replaced, and Gaudens refused to work with the Mint for ten years after that, until Roosevelt brought him back in.
The Indian Head Eagle gets its name from the face design, which features the head of Lady Liberty in profile. The national icon is wearing a Native American-style headdress with the word “Liberty” inscribed on the headband. This headdress, connecting the coin to America’s native history and the continent’s first inhabitants, was Roosevelt’s idea. The obverse also features thirteen stars, representing the original colonies, and the date of pressing.
The reverse of the coin features the eagle, which forms the other half of the coin’s name and is the national symbol of America. The eagle stands perched on a bundle of arrows while clutching an olive branch, showing both martial strength and a desire for peace. The reverse also includes the motto “E Pluribus Unum,” the name of the United States of America, and the face value of the coin (ten dollars). The original molds did not include the motto “In God We Trust,” purportedly at the specific request of President Roosevelt. This omission caused a public outcry, and an act of Congress required this inscription to be added to later versions; the coins from the first pressing, struck in 1907, lack the motto, while later runs after the original dyes were modified include the motto.
Production of the $10 Indian Head Eagle ran from 1907-1933, although in 1916, post-war gold surpluses led to a significant reduction in its pressings, and the coin was only made during certain years (1920, 1926, 1930, 1932, and 1933). In 1933, FDR, attempting to defray the worst effects of the Great Depression and greatly worried about the deleterious effects of gold hoarding on the economy, issued an Executive Order requiring all circulating gold coinage be returned to the government to be melted down. As a result, the coin became quite rare, only surviving in the hands of a few collectors.
As mentioned above, the 1933 recall of American gold coinage made the Indian Head Eagle scarce, as most examples of it were turned in for destruction. At the time, the coin was somewhat too common to be collected widely, so few remained in private hands although some existed in Europe. The rarity of the coin is, as is typically the case, affected by the mintmark and year of pressing, with the 1907 motto-less coins and the 1933 run, cut short by Roosevelt’s proclamation, carrying a heavy premium. Only around forty of the 1933 coins are known to exist.
Modern collectors value the piece for its historical value, while investors enjoy the high value of such a rarity. The Indian Head Eagle is generally available for less than its sister coin, the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, and is thus perhaps an easier point of entry for higher-end coin collectors and investors looking to build a portfolio. The value of the Indian Head has increased greatly over the years, and many see it as a stable carrier of value and a solid foundation for a collection.
Today these coins are available in several grades and conditions from Mint-State to Poor. Many coins have been certified by major coin grading companies like the NGC and PCGS while others are still available in uncertified condition. Be sure to browse through Silver.com’s wide selection of these coins and add one to your collection today!