US Coins

Affording Indian Head gold eagle coins

The Joys of Collecting column from the Oct. 12, 2015, issue of Coin World

In recent weeks I’ve gone behind the scenes with the Indian Head gold $10 eagle design created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and widely circulated beginning in the autumn of 1907. At that time the motifs of American coins included the Indian Head cent, the Liberty Head 5-cent, and the Coronet $2.50, $5, $10, and $20 coins.

Prior to 1907, hardly any numismatic reviewers had anything nice to say about the high-denomination gold designs, and the American art community, more or less centered around New York City, thought that all from the cent to the double eagle should be replaced. It was a breath of fresh air when in 1907 the talents of America’s most famous sculptor, Saint-Gaudens, created the $10 eagle and, soon to be launched, the $20 double eagle

Not many people could afford to collect the new eagles by date and Mint. In fact, even one was expensive. The average wage for a laborer was about 22 cents per hour. Working for the usual 10 hours per day it would take nearly a week to buy a $10 coin for face value. On the other hand, the cost of living was low. Eggs cost a little more than 1 cent each, coffee was 15 cents per pound, a bottle of Coke or Moxie cost 5 cents, and sugar was 4 cents per pound. Essentials were mostly affordable. 

Luxuries were not, except for certain of those engaged in the professions and business. Because of this, few Indian Head eagles were collected even by those in better circumstances, once the interest in the 1907 new issue faded.

Today, social circumstances have changed. With a nod to those who are struggling, it is true to say that most adult Americans have one or more cars, or access to one, a television set, audio devices, Internet equipment, and perhaps have gone distant places on vacations. 

Collecting Indian Head eagles by date and Mint is quite popular and encompasses at least several thousand specialists. The series totals 30 basic pieces by date and Mint, of which only five are priced over $10,000 in Mint State 60 grade. The other 25 include quite a few at $2,000 or less in MS-63 grade. You might contemplate the choices and start a set.

Don’t be cowed into thinking that the only worthwhile coins are gems. Instead, contemplate the full range of grades and select those that you can afford.

Community Comments