Sign In or Create Account

Knowledge Center

$2.50 Gold Indian Head – 1908 – 1929

Learn About the 1908-1929 $2.50 Gold Indian Head

This was another coin whose genesis can be traced to President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1904, Roosevelt wanted new American coinage to look and feel like coins struck by the Greeks and Romans – coins with allegorical symbolism and very high relief. He did not want the same old boring coinage that we currently had – think Charles Barer coinage. Roosevelt wanted something that America could be proud of and enjoy.

Roosevelt had the Mint select his close personal friend, Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the four circulating gold coins ($2.50 – $5.00 – $10.00 – $20.00) and the cent. These coins could be redesigned without an Act of Congress, as the designs had been struck for more than 25 years each. Saint-Gaudens redesigned the $20 Double Eagle and the $10 Eagle gold coins first. But Saint-Gaudens’ health was a major issue as he was dying and would require assistance to create and complete all of the designs.

The Mint now turned its attention and efforts to redesigning the $2.50 and $5.00 gold coins. The original plan had been to duplicate the $20 gold piece in two smaller sizes but that proved impossible as the mottoes and legends required to be placed on the coins were too small to read on the smaller coins and the coins could not be struck in high relief. Roosevelt himself came up with the idea of creating and striking a coin with a recessed design so that it would look like it was struck in high relief.

A sculptor from Boston, Bela Lyon Pratt, was familiar with working with recessed dies and proceeded to strike coins that met the requirements of the US Mint. Recessed designs would protect the designs from early wear and allow the coins to be easily stacked – two complaints that high-relief dies couldn’t combat.

(Bela Lyon Pratt’s Plaster Model for the Indian Head Gold Coinage – Obverse [left] – Reverse [right].)
(Bela Lyon Pratt’s 1908 $2.50 Gold Indian Head – Obverse [left] Reverse [right].)

Pratt’s original designs did not include the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” so that was added before the coins were struck to follow the federal requirements.

The $2.50 Quarter Eagle and the $5.00 Half Eagle are identical in design except for size and denomination. Both feather the recessed, incuse style, which allows for the appearance of high relief.

The design depicts either an allegorical representation of Miss Liberty or a Native American man, wearing a native headdress, facing left. (The features are predominantly male.) The motto “LIBERTY” is above his head and there are six five-pointed stars to the left and seven five-pointed stars to the right.  The designer’s initials, BLP, are found just above the date and the edge is reeded. On the reverse is a standing eagle, facing left, upon a bundle of arrows, and an olive branch in its left talon. The mintmark, if any, is to the left of the arrowheads near the edge of the coin. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is above the eagle, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is to the left and in front of the eagle while “IN GOD WE TRUST” is to the right and behind the eagle.

In November of 1908, these new coins entered circulation and newspapers and the public worried that this new design, with its indented surfaces, could harbor dirt and germs. But those notions were dispelled and in 19-8, the initial year, 564,821 coins were minted. In 1909 and 1910 respectively, the Philadelphia Mint struck 441,760 and 492,000 coins. In 1911, the Philadelphia Mint struck 704,000 and for the very first time, the Denver mint struck 55,680 1911-dated coins bearing a D mintmark. Many of those coins struck at the branch mint have a very weak D mintmark. Denver also struck coins in 1914 and again in 1925.

Philadelphia struck coins from 1908 through 1915 and then no $2.50 Quarter Eagles were struck until 1925. The coins circulated in the Western United States but not very much in the East. However, the outbreak of World War I in Europe caused the coins to be hoarded. Once they were struck again in 1925 at Denver, they ran until 1929 when the Mint stopped production. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order in 1933 proved to be the death knell for all US gold coins.   

DateTypeMintageVery Fine ValueUnc Value
1908 – 1911Indian Head704,000 to 441,760$325$1,800
1911-DIndian Head55,680$3,000$15,000
1912 to 1915Indian Head722,000 to 240,000$350$2,500
1925-D to 1929Indian Head578,000 to 388,000$325$700

Expand your collection today and shop our assortment of $2.50 Indian Quarter Eagle Coins.

Explore More On APMEX



Rare Coins