TIED TO FINEST KNOWN ! 1910 HALF EAGLE $5 GOLD, INDIAN HEAD, PCGS MS65 Click on Coin Image to
for Finest Known! 1910 $5 Indian Head, PCGS MS65
1910 $5 Indian
Head, PCGS MS65. In its population report, PCGS shows
22 1910 half eagles certified at the MS65 grade level
with none finer. This outstanding, Gem 1910 Indian
Head half eagle is tied for the finest known at PCGS.
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This specimen is well struck with
full details on the high points of the Indian’s
bonnet, the feather details, and the feathers on the
highest wing of the eagle. The surfaces are extremely
clean with no visible abrasion marks or other distractions.
The white scuff marks in the center on both sides
are on the holder not the coin. As expected for a
Gem piece, bright mint luster is evident within the
devices. The light and dark yellow-gold colors affirm
the coin’s originality. It is a lovely piece
that fully shows Pratt’s new design.
In 1908 the new Indian Head half eagle was produced.
Designed by Bela Lyon Pratt, the new coin had two
very different innovations related to its design.
One was the realism used in the portrait of the Indian
brave on the obverse, and the other was the use of
incuse design details. President Theodore Roosevelt,
influenced by his friend, Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow,
wanted the coinage of the country redesigned. His
“pet crime” was to bypass the mediocre
Charles Barber, the Mint Engraver. Roosevelt, who
was now in his second term of office, wanted to reform
the coinage of the United States, which he felt was
“atrociously hideous.” He wanted the half
eagle to use an American Indian as an emblem of liberty
and to use the incuse design of the ancients.
The obverse shows a profile view of an
authentic looking brave facing left. He is wearing a
full headdress. Above him is LIBERTY and below is the
date. Six five-pointed stars are on the left and seven
are on the right. The reverse shows a standing eagle,
reminiscent of the reverse of Saint-Gaudens’ eagle
coin. Pratt fit the four inscriptions on the reverse
without it seeming overcrowded. E PLURIBUS UNUM is in
the left field, and IN GOD WE TRUST is in the right.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the words separated by dots
is above, and FIVE DOLLARS is below. The eagle stands
on a bundle of arrows that resembles the Roman fasces,
symbol of the power to kill, and holds an olive branch,
symbol of peace. The use of realism
in the obverse portrait was innovative because prior
designed Indian head motifs used stylized busts and
fanciful war bonnets. Although the name and tribe of
Pratt’s Indian brave are unknown, he is clearly
authentic looking. Pratt’s use of this figure
is seen as an extension of a trend started in 1899 with
the portrait of “Running Antelope” on the
five dollar silver certificate. The
incuse design of the coin was also an innovation for
United States coinage. No regularly circulating coin
ever made use of this process before. It was criticized
by numismatists and people in banking and commerce.
They felt that the coins would not stack, could be easily
counterfeited, and were unsanitary because dirt would
get into the incused features. However, despite this
opposition, the public was indifferent, and the coins
remained in production and circulation until 1929, when
the Great Depression caused general economic upheaval.
Bela Lyon Pratt, born in 1867
in Norwich Connecticut, was an art educator, sculptor,
and medalist. After graduating from the Yale School
of Fine Arts at the age of sixteen, he joined the Art
Students League of New York where he took classes with,
among others, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who became his
mentor. Pratt then traveled to Europe where he studied
sculpture. He finished first in his class at the Ecole
des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1892. When he returned to
the United States he worked with August Saint-Gaudens
and created two large sculpture groups for the Columbian
Exposition in 1893. From then until his death in 1917
he was a Professor of Sculpture at the Boston Museum
School of Fine Art. In addition to the coinage designs
of 1908, Pratt had many commissions for medallions and
medals. In 1909 Pratt did his most medal work; however,
most of his 180 works were portrait reliefs and busts.
He also did decorative architectural sculpture for buildings
such as the Liberal Arts Building, the Buffalo Exposition,
and the Library of Congress. He was a member of the
National Sculpture Society, the National Academy of
Design, the Architectural League, and he was founder
of the Guild of Boston Artists.