1908-29 Half Eagle Indian Head

This historical information is provided complements of NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation). NGC is the "grading service of choice" of the ANA (American Numismatic Association), the largest collector oriented organization in the United States. NGC is one of the two largest independent grading services. NGC has been grading coins since 1987, and have graded in excess of four million coins.

In January 1914, with Europe on the brink of war and the United States in the throes of a depression, Henry Ford announced that he was doubling his workers' pay from $2.34 per day to a princely $5 and, at the same time, reducing their nine-hour workday to eight hours. Ford Motor Company was, he said, initiating "the greatest revolution in the matter of rewards for its workers ever known to the industrial world."

Strange as it may seem in today's inflated economy, $5 per day was indeed a handsome wage in 1914, and what Ford did was every bit as revolutionary as he proclaimed.

Clearly then, the half eagle or $5 gold piece was a coin with considerable clout in 1914, even though it was only slightly larger than the then brand-new "Buffalo" nickel. After all, it represented a full day's pay for well-paid workers enough to buy a pair of trousers plus a pair of work boots.

The half eagles being minted that year had more in common with Buffalo nickels than size: Both carried portraits of realistic-looking American Indians. The Indian Head half eagle had made its first appearance in 1908, along with a quarter eagle (or $2.50 gold piece) of identical design.

In another respect, however, these Indian Head gold pieces are unlike any other coins produced before or since by Uncle Sam: Their relief is incuse. Simply stated, what this means is that their designs and inscriptions are sunken below the surface of the coins, rather than being raised.

This innovative technique was quite daring, for no other modern coins had ever used it. In normal times, in fact, the idea might well have been scrapped. But new ideas were welcome in national affairs in the early 1900s, thanks in large measure to one larger-than-life individual: President Theodore Roosevelt. The restless, dynamic Roosevelt took a personal interest in virtually all aspects of the American scene including the nation's coinage and left his personal imprint on many areas.

Roosevelt had persuaded the nation's foremost sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to redesign the double eagle and eagle ($20 and $10 gold pieces) and had taken great pride when the two new coins debuted in 1907 to rave reviews. In 1908, he turned his attention to the two remaining gold coins, the half eagle and quarter eagle.

The idea of recessing the coins' features came from William Sturgis Bigelow, a Boston physician and art lover who happened to be a close friend of Roosevelt's. Bigelow had seen incuse relief in Egyptian art works at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and he piqued the president's interest with his notion of adapting this technique to U.S. coinage. With Roosevelt's blessing, he engaged a fellow Bostonian, noted sculptor Bela-Lyon Pratt, to prepare coinage models, and Pratt developed designs pairing an Indian brave on the obverse with an eagle in repose on the reverse.

The new coins must have bewildered many Americans when they first entered circulation near the end of 1908. Beyond their unusual relief, they also represented the first fundamental design change in the two denominations in nearly 70 years. Other than the addition of the words IN GOD WE TRUST in 1866, the previous half eaglewhich carried a portrait of Liberty with a coronet in her hairhad been basically the same since its origin in 1839.

Consternation, not confusion, was what some people felt when they saw the coins. One of the loudest critics was Philadelphia coin dealer Samuel H. Chapman, who took issue with everything from the virility of the Indian (he described the portrait as "emaciated") to the health hazard posed by the "sunken design" (he predicted that this would make the coins "a great receptacle for dirt and conveyor of disease").

Critics such as Chapman were doomed to disappointment in their bid to derail the new coins, although they had an influential ally in the U.S. Mint's chief engraver, Charles E. Barber. Jealously defending his turf, Barber did make seemingly unneeded modifications in Pratt's designs, just as he had done earlier with Saint-Gaudens' models. But in the final analysis, Roosevelt's support was all that mattered.

Indian Head half eagles were issued annually from 1908 through 1916; in one year, 1909, four different mints produced them (branch-mint issues are denoted by a mint mark to the left of the fasces on the reverse). After 1916, production was suspended for 13 years; it then resumed for one last hurrah in 1929 at the Philadelphia Mint before the series ended for good in the face of the Great Depression. The 1929 half eagle is the big key in the series, worth several thousand dollars even in circulated grades. Records list its mintage as 662,000, but the vast majority apparently were melted. Other scarce dates include 1909-O, 1911-D and 1908-S, all with mintages under 100,000. Small numbers of matte proofs were made every year from 1908 through 1915.

Being recessed, the design elements on Indian Head half eagles are shielded from heavy wear. At the same time, this complicates grading since wear patterns differ from those of raised-relief coins. Critical areas for detecting wear are the Indian's cheekbone and headdress feathers and the shoulder of the eagle's left wing. Although these coins are plentiful in grades up to Mint State-64, they are quite elusive in MS-65, and very rare above that level.

Henry Ford probably wasn't thinking of the Indian Head half eagle when he instituted the $5 workday, yet the coin's career did seem to parallel Ford's: It came into being the same year as the Model-T, and it left the Mint's production line two years after the Model-T gave way to the Model-A.


Diameter: 21.6 millimeters
Weight: 8.359 grams
Composition: .900 gold, .100 copper
Edge: Reeded
Net Weight: .24187 ounce pure gold


Akers, David W., United States Gold Coins, Volume IV, Half Eagles 1795-1929, Paramount Publications, Englewood, OH, 1975.

Breen, Walter, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, F.C.I. Press/Doubleday, New York, 1988.

Taxay, Don, The U.S. Mint and Coinage, Arco Publishing Co., New York, 1966.

Winter, Douglas, New Orleans Mint Gold Coins:1839-1909, Bowers & Merena Galleries, Wolfeboro, NH, 1992.

Yeoman, R.S., A Guide Book of United States Coins, 47th Edition, Western Publishing Co., Racine, WI, 1993.





RISK: The purchase of coins or bullion items are highly speculative and involves substantial risk. As in other markets, coin or bullion prices can be extremely volatile and will rise and fall depending upon market conditions. Therefore, before purchasing coins or bullion, you should first have adequate cash reserves and other assets to absorb a potentially significant loss. Sorry, but we do not make recommendations, we think you should buy what you want.


HOLDING PERIOD: Historically, few coins or bullion items  have appreciated dramatically in the short term. Therefore, purchasers should recognize that it may well be necessary for them to hold coins for a 3 - 5 year period, or even a 5 - 10 year period, to have any chance of realizing a significant   gain.


The Tulving Company (Since 1990)

P.O. Box 6200, Newport Beach, CA 92658
800-995-1708, FAX 714-545-3031
If You Are in Alaska or Hawaii, call 714-545-3030

E-Mail hannes@tulving.com


Return to The Tulving Company Homepage


Gold, Platinum, Palladium & Silver Coins


2008 Gold Silver Platinum Eagle Rolls Bags Boxes PCGS Coins Site Map

2008 Gold Silver Platinum American Eagles

2008 $50 American Eagle 1 Oz

2008 American Silver Eagles Dollar Coin Mint Box

2008 American Eagle 1 Oz Silver $1 Coins

PCGS First Strike US Silver Eagles 2008 American Eagles Coin Rolls


2008 1 Oz Gold Coins

2008 Buffalo $50 Gold 1 Oz Coins

2008 Canadian Maple Leaf $50

2008 Chinese Panda 1 Oz Coin

2008 Australian Gold Lunar Mouse Rat

2008 Austrian Philharmonic 1 Oz Gold


Silver Bars Coins Bags Rolls Box

American Eagle 1 Oz Silver Dollar

90% Junk Silver Coin Bag

American Silver Eagles Dollar Coin Box

A-Mark 1 Oz Silver Rounds Rolls

Engelhard Silver Bars JM 100 Oz Johnson Matthey

American Silver Eagle Box of $1 Rolls

A-Mark Silver 10 Oz Bars

100 Oz Silver Bars .999 Bar

1 Oz Silver .999 Rounds

1 Oz American Silver Eagle Dollars


American 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, 1 Oz Gold Silver Platinum Eagles

Platinum 1 Oz American Eagle

American Eagle $50 Gold 1 Oz Coin

Eagle Gold $25 Dollar American 1/2 Oz Coins

Proof 1 Oz American Eagle 50 Dollar

1/10 American Eagles $5 Gold Rolls

American Eagle Gold 10 Dollar 1/4 Oz Coins

1 Oz American Eagle Gold 50 Dollar Coin

Silver Eagle Proof Dollar Coins

Silver Platinum American Eagles Mintages


PCGS PR69DCAM MS70 MS69 PR70DCAM $1 $5 $10 $25 $50 Coins

PCGS MS70 1/10 Gold American Eagles

Proof Sacagawea PCGS PR69DCAM $1

Silver Eagle Dollar PCGS PR70DCAM

$100 American Platinum 1 Oz Eagle Proof Coins

Buffalo PCGS PR70DCAM $50

PCGS MS70 EAGLES $5 $10 $25 $50

Platinum American Eagle $50 PCGS PR69DCAM

Proof Silver Eagle PCGS PR69DCAM American $1

PCGS Certified Presidential Rolls


Gold Bullion 1 Oz Coins And Bars

Australian Gold Kangaroo 1 Oz Nugget

Austrian Philharmonic .9999 Bullion 1 Oz Coins

2007 Canadian Maple Leaf .99999

American Buffalo .9999 24 K

Chinese Panda 1 Oz Gold Coins

South African Gold Krugerrand 1 Oz

Credit Suisse 1 Oz Gold .9999 Bar

Pamp Suisse Gold 24 Karat Bars

South African Gold Krugerrand 1 Oz Coins

Johnson Matthey Gold Bars JM Bullion Bar


Canadian Maple Leaf Gold Platinum Palladium 1 Oz Coins

Canadian Maple Leaf .9999 1 Oz

1 Oz .999 Gold Canadian Maple Leaf

Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf  Coin

Canadian Maple Leaf Bag Marked Coins

Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf 1 oz


Australian Lunar Series 1 Oz Gold Coins

Perth Mint Australian Lunar 1 Oz  Rat 1996 Mouse

Gold Lunar Coins From Australia 1997 Year Of Ox

Australia Gold 1 Oz Chinese Lunar 1998 Tiger Coins

Chinese Lunar Coin From Australia 1999 Rabbit

Australian Lunar Dragon 2000 1 Oz Coins

Perth Mint Gold Australian Snake 2001 Serpent

Australian Lunar Series One 2002 Horse Coins

1 Oz Australian Gold 2003 Chinese Lunar Goat

Chinese Lunar 2006 Rooster From Australia

Australian Lunar Series One 2006 Dog

Australian Lunar Calendar Pig 2007 Boar

Buy Gold Silver Platinum Palladium Coins Buying Bullion Bars

Buy Australian Gold Lunar Coins

Buy Gold Coins 1 Oz Canadian Maple Leaf $50

Buying Selling Silver Bullion 10 Oz Bars

PCGS Gold American Eagle MS69 Buy Sell

Buying Gold Silver Platinum Bullion Coins

We Sell Gold Palladium Platinum Silver Bullion Bars Coins For Less

Buy Sell Gold Silver Selling Buying Gold Bars Bags Boxes

Certified Coin Dealer Buys And Sells Gold Coins

Buy Sell Gold Silver Platinum Bullion Bars Coins

Buying Platinum Coins

Buying Gold Coins

Buying Silver Eagles American Eagle Coins


Pre 1933 U S Gold Coins

$20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles Pre 1933

$20 Liberty Pre 1933 U S  Double Eagles

PCGS MS62 US $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle Coins

US $20 Gold Liberty Double Eagle PCGS MS63 Coins

PCGS US Gold $20 Liberty Double Eagle MS65 Coins

PCGS US Gold $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle MS64 Coins

US $20 Gold Saint Gaudens Double Eagle PCGS MS62 Coins


Pre 1933 Foreign Gold Coins

Swiss Helvetia 20 Franc Pre 1933 European Coins

British Sovereign ( King )

French Rooster World Coins

British Sovereign Queen Victoria Coins

World Gold French Angel 20 Franc

Italian Umberto 20 Lira

Belgium Leopold 20 Franc

Netherlands 10 Gulden Kings

Russian 15 Rubles

World Gold French Napoleon 50 Francs

European Pre 1933 Gold Danish 20 Kroner

Swedish 20 Kroner

German 20 Mark


Tulving Company Information

Important Information And Services

Company Day Night And Weekend Phone Hours

Free Overnight Shipping

Bullion Specials

References And Bank Wiring Instructions

PCGS Certified Coin Financing

Family Members Working For The Tulving Company

PCGS Coins Only EBay Store

Gold Platinum In Your IRA

24 K American Buffalo Coin Praise


Free Historical U S Coin Information

Carson City Mint

Dahlonega Mint

Charlotte Mint

Liberty Type 1 Double Eagles

Double Eagle Liberty Type 2

Type 3 Double Eagles

U S Silver Trade Dollars

Bust Small Eagle Silver Dollars

90% Silver Washington 25

Flowing Hair Liberty 1/2 Dollar

Draped Bust Liberty Heraldic Eagle 1/4 Dollar

American Buffalo Nickel

1/4 Eagle Liberty Capped Bust

$5 Indian Head 1/2 Eagle

Indian Head Quarter Eagles

90% Silver 1/4 Dollar

90% Silver 50 Franklin 1/2 Dollars

90% Silver Kennedy 1/2 Dollar

Seated Liberty No Motto Silver Dollar

$1 Eisenhower Silver Dollars

$1 Liberty Head Peace Silver Dollar

$1 Liberty Head Morgan Dollars

Pattern American Silver Dollars

Draped Bust Silver Eagle Dollar


New Pages

Foreign Gold Coins

Mexican 50 Peso

100 Austrian Corona Hungarian Korona

Austrian 4 Ducats

20 Franc Post 1933 Swiss Helvetia

50 Peso Mexican Coins