The design of the Indian Quarter Eagle, like that of the Indian Half Eagle, fell to Bela Lyon Pratt on the death of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Pratt used the same design for both coins: the image of Liberty is replaced with that of an Indian chief on the obverse, and Saint-Gaudens’ classic eagle perched on a sheath of arrows bound with an olive branch is on the reverse. The denomination is “2 1/2 DOLLARS.”
Also as on the Half Eagle, the design is incused (struck into the surface) and there is no protective rim to detract from the incuse. Unfortunately, Pratt failed to recognize how deeply mysophobia – the fear of germs – was entrenched in our culture. Bowing to their fear of bacteria lurking in the tiny recesses of the incuse, the public hoarded an unusually low number of Indian Quarter Eagles for future generations. Kept in circulation, the Half Eagle experienced abnormal wear.
Indian Quarter Eagles were produced from 1908 to 1915, and again from 1925 to 1929, at the Philadelphia Mint (no mintmark), the Denver Mint (“D” mintmark), or at both during some years. Total mintage for circulation of the Indian Quarter Eagle was 7,250,261.
The Philadelphia 1911 Indian Quarter Eagle (no mintmark) had the highest mintage of 704,191 and in the same year Denver had the lowest with production of just 55,680 Gold Half Eagles.
Regardless of his arguably overzealous design, Bela Pratt dared to stretch the envelope. Perhaps because of that, the Indian Quarter Eagle is widely recognized today as one of America’s finest gold coins.
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