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$5 Gold Indian

Highly sought after by both collectors and investors, $5 Gold Indians are unique among American coins. Unlike all other U.S. currency, $5 Gold Indians feature an incuse design, which means their fine details are sunken into the coin’s surface. Add to that a design that’s attractive in its own right, as well as the privacy benefits of collecting pre-1933 gold coins, and it’s easy to see why $5 Gold Indians are among our most popular products.

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Dates and Details

The U.S. Mint issued $5 Gold Indians, also called half-eagles, between 1908 and 1929 — most were minted before 1916. Sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt was responsible for the design, which featured an American Indian in profile on the obverse and, on the reverse, an eagle perched on a branch.

The Philadelphia mint produced the majority of $5 Gold Indians, though minting occurred at four different sites in the 1900s. The 1929 gold Indians are among the most valuable. Though records indicate more than 660,000 were minted, most were melted down with the onset of the Great Depression.

What Is Incuse Design?

All other U.S. coins — gold and otherwise — are struck in bas-relief, meaning their details are raised above the surface. The $5 Gold Indian's use of incuse design makes it unique among both U.S. currency, and nearly all other modern coins.

This unconventional idea came from William Sturgis Bigelow, a physician, art enthusiast, and, most importantly, close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. Inspired after seeing an exhibit on ancient Egypt, Bigelow proposed using an incuse design on U.S. currency. While such a radical departure from the norm would be unthinkable today, the idea benefited from both Roosevelt's desire to elevate the caliber of American coinage, as well as the contemporary vogue for all things Egyptian.

Reception

The $5 Gold Indian was met with both confusion and outright criticism upon its initial release. Lyon’s design — the first major reimaging of U.S. gold coinage since 1839 — was not well received, and some prominent collectors worried that the incuse impression would promote the spread of disease.

Ultimately, Roosevelt’s enthusiasm prevented any backlash, and the $5 Indian has gone on to be considered one of the more attractive examples of pre-1933 gold coinage.

Why Collect $5 Gold Indian Coins?

$5 Gold Indian coins are an important part of U.S. numismatic history. If you’re looking to add one to your collection, look no further than Mint State Gold. We routinely have products graded MS63 or higher by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

Whether you’re a collector or are interested in buying $5 Gold Indian mintage for investment purposes, we can help. Visit individual product pages for details, or contact a Mint State Gold representative for assistance choosing the right item for your needs.

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