What Makes the Gold Indian Quarter Eagle Different from Other US Coins 4


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?

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4 thoughts on “What Makes the Gold Indian Quarter Eagle Different from Other US Coins

  • kmv

    Very interesting article on the Gold Indian Quarter! Personally I love the look of the incuse relief as it reminds me very much of tooled leather. Even the gold has the look of used leather!

    You mention that you added this coin to your collection. In your research of this coin, did you come across any other coins of this style? I’m a novice collector, and am curious to know if there are any affordable (approx $100) coins of this style available.

    Thanks!

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment! I love the incuse relief as well. As far as I know, the only US coins with the incuse relief are the Gold Indian Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle coins between 1908 and 1929. 

      If you want a mint state or uncirculated Indian Quarter Eagle like the one I have, you would have to pay at least $400. For a lower grade coin, you could spend between $300 and $400. Of course, the change in the price of gold could raise or lower the cost. 

      If you are looking to buy a gold coin and don’t want to spend a lot, you could go for a 1/10 ounce gold bullion coin that the US mint sells. Right now, they range between $150 and $180. Something to consider. Good luck!

  • Melissa

    This particular topic is not something I read about, however you caught my interest! I didn’t know that there was a difference.
    I love the history you have provided for us. And it is truly sad he had to pass before actually seeing what his coin became.
    I wouldn’t buy one but it is simply because coin collecting isn’t really my thing.
    But I did thoroughly enjoy the information you provided it is very unique.

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment Melissa! I’m glad you found it interesting. It’s okay if you are not interested in collecting  coins. If I can interest someone who is not into coins, I hope it will interest ones that do.

      If you do ever consider coin collecting, come back here. I’m about to post my 100th article and hope to do many more in the future.