A while ago, I wrote a post about finally getting my dream coin, an Indian Quarter Eagle. A few months ago, a few men from my coin club gave a presentation on the Indian Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles, the designer, and what he did to them that was never done to any US coin before them. How he designed them was one of the reasons that I wanted own one.
The early 20th century saw new circulating coins. Augustus Saint-Gaudens designed the $10 Indian Gold Eagle and the infamous $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle in 1907 and Victor D. Brenner designed the Lincoln Cent in 1909. In between this would be a design like no other in United States history that would be used on the $2.50 Quarter Eagle and $5 Half Eagle Gold Coins, and would be done by a designer who lived 20 miles from where I live, Bela Lyon Pratt.
Bela Lyon Pratt was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1857. He studied at Yale University and attended the Art Students League of New York where he would meet an instructor who would become his mentor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It was Saint-Gaudens who would encourage Pratt to study art in Paris. After Paris, Pratt would move to Boston and become friends with a physician and art collector, Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow. Dr. Bigelow was also good friends with the current US President, Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt was looking for new designs in US coins, Dr. Bigelow mentioned how he saw some art from Egypt with an incuse relief and that Pratt should be allowed to do it on US coins. An incused coin is one where its details were hammered or stamped on. So, Pratt was given the task to design the new gold Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle coins. Pratt would design both coins with a Native American with headdress on the obverse and the Eagle on the reverse. When they were released to the public in 1908, they would not be favorable to most, except for bankers who saw it was easier to stack them with the incused design. Back then, people were afraid the incused relief could produce more dirt and germs, and could be counterfeited easier. Also, they thought the Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle Gold Coins were uglier than Saint-Gaudens $10 Eagle and $20 Double Eagle he just designed. Even with the criticism, the Indian Quarter Eagle would be minted from 1908 – 1915 and 1925 – 1929. Quarter Eagles were minted in the hundreds of thousands each year, except for the 1911-D. At on 55,000 minted, the 1911-D is the key date of the series.
Though they weren’t popular back when they were originally minted, Indian Quarter Eagles have become more popular today. Pratt would never see his coins become popular as he passed away in 1917 at the age of 49. Unfortunately, grading services have seen many counterfeits out there like stated earlier. So, be careful, especially if someone tries to sell you one at a significantly reduced price. The one I got was certified by NGC and the dealer was a member of my coin club, which made me feel more comfortable about purchasing it.
I don’t care what people thought a hundred years ago. The Indian Quarter Eagle Gold Coin is a beautiful coin, and the first US coin, along with the Indian Half Eagle, to have an incused design. What do you think of the Indian Quarter Eagle? Would you ever consider purchasing one?