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All Posts Tagged With: "Indian Head Gold"

Coin Profile: Roman Finish 1909 Half Eagle Gold Coin

The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or “semibrilliant” proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast–half eagles or otherwise.

The 1908 gold coins of the new Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens designs were launched with a new “matte” proof format that was all the rage in European mints of the era. The Robert Loewinger reference, Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, offers this:

“The [matte proof] process originally started in Belgium and was popularized in the Paris Mint. The finish was applied after striking and was made by sandblasting the coins at different forces and speeds with different sizes of grains of sand. Also pickling the coins in a weak acid was another technique that was used on these coins after striking.”

We are unsure how widespread the “pickling” was, but the sandblasting was a well-known, widespread Mint technique that produced a granular (sometimes fine, sometimes coarser), usually dark, subdued finish to the product, a function of the lack of normally reflective surfaces. The matte proof coins of 1908 are usually dark, brownish-gold to olive-brown, and they were extremely unpopular with collectors accustomed to a more brilliant finish.

The Mint in 1909 reverted to a lighter Roman or satin finish for proof gold. The updated Akers Handbook offers these thoughts:

“The proof 1909 introduced the Roman Gold proofing method in the Indian Half Eagle series, although at least one specimen was prepared using the dark matte finish of 1908. Despite having brighter, flashier surfaces than the proof 1908, the proof 1909 still failed to gain wide acceptance among the contemporary public The Mint melted many examples at year’s end. Interestingly, even though most survivors present as overall smooth, the issue has the lowest average grade in the entire proof Indian Half Eagle series.”

A  PR67 piece is being offering in the current 2010 October Stamford Coinfest Signature US Coin Auction #1145, and is one of the nicest survivors of the proof 1909 half eagle mintage, recorded as 78 pieces. It is one of six so graded at NGC, with but two coins finer.

New Book on US Indian Head Gold Coins Gives Coin Collecting Tips for this Popular Series

A new book by award-winning numismatic author Mike Fuljenz, Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century, looks at the history of the popular Indian Head design $2.50 (“Quarter Eagle”), $5 (“Half Eagle”) and $10 (“Eagle”) denomination gold coins, and provides useful information and expert advice for collecting some of America’s most beautiful and popular rare coins.

A detailed, date-by-date analysis with color illustrations gives readers pertinent descriptions about the history of each date and mintmark as well as important comments about strike, luster, color and eye appeal. Fuljenz includes Overall Rarity and Uncirculated Rarity rankings tabulated from Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and Professional Coin Grading Service population reports for grades MS62 to MS65. There also are consumer education tips about protecting coins from theft, and the best ways to sell gold coins.

Fuljenz examines the intriguing historical background and the controversies involved in the introduction of revolutionary new U.S. gold coin designs spurred by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century. The first production of Indian Head $10 coins in 1907 and early 1908 did not contain the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, until Congress legislated its return.

“Teddy Roosevelt launched an artistic renaissance in American coin design that swept across all denominations,” Fuljenz explains early in the 258-page book. “Roosevelt made no secret of his contempt for the colorless drudges at the U.S. Mint headed by chief engraver Charles E. Barber. Barber’s designs exhibited all the excitement of a cold, soggy bowl of oatmeal.”

The President turned to acclaimed artists Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create new coin designs. Pratt designed the Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles minted from 1908 to 1929, and Saint-Gaudens created the design for Eagles produced from 1907 to 1933 (as well as the iconic $20 Double Eagle design of 1907 to 1933 that collectors today simply refer to as “Saints” in his honor).

Fuljenz writes: “Winning a mandate to the presidency on his own merit in the 1904 election, Roosevelt was emboldened to commit what he called his ‘pet crime’ of transforming United States coinage to a state of pride and respect even if it meant trampling roughshod over the established inbred Washington political cliques.”

Published by Subterfuge Publishing, Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century by Mike Fuljenz (ISBN:10-0981948898) has a suggested retail price of $14.95. Copies are available by calling toll-free at (800) 877-3273