In 1908, a brand new half eagle $5 gold coin was released to replace the Liberty Head design that had appeared for some seven decades. The new Indian Head design by Bela Lyon Pratt would replace the older Liberty bust motif that had seen a production run spanning from 1839 to 1908. The new Indian Head design differed from any other U.S. coin made before that time in that the Indian Head actually is in recuse – that means the design, lettering, and other devices on the coin are sunken into the surface instead of raised above. The Indian Head $2.50 quarter eagle coin, also designed by Pratt, similarly featured an incuse design and these coins remain to this day the only two U.S. coinage series to have this unique feature. Many in the public detested the incuse design, which some thought would harbor germs.
Here’s a breakdown of mintages and values of 1908 Indian Head half eagle gold coins:
1908; 577,845 minted, $475
1908-D; 148,000, $475
1908-S; 82,000, $600
1908 proof; 167, $8,750
*Prices are for coins grading Very Fine-30, unless otherwise noted.
Indian Head half eagle gold coins weigh 8.359 grams, and have a composition that is 90 percent gold and 10 percent copper. Featuring a reeded edge, Indian Head half eagles are 21.6 millimeters wide, or just a tiny bit wider in diameter than a modern-day nickel.