1908 Indian Half Eagle, MS67
1908 $5 MS67 NGC. The initial-year mintage for the new Bela
Lyon Pratt-designed half eagle was a generous production exceeding
577,000 examples, although the Philadelphia Mint in the following
year would produce an even larger emission. Dr. William Sturgis
Bigelow had suggested the original design idea for the Indian Head
half eagle to President Theodore Roosevelt, and Pratt had made the
models. As usual, Mint personnel, in this case mint engraver
Charles Barber, modified the final design for coinage production.
Pratt was clearly uninvolved with the last step. In writing to his
mother Sarah Pratt after being shown an sample half eagle by
Bigelow, Bela Lyon Pratt wrote, as taken from Roger W. Burdette's
important work Renaissance of American Coinage
Important First-Year Issue
Only One Finer Certified
"After the first of November you can [get] all you want of my coins at any bank, but that is still a secret. They have 'knocked spots' out of my design at the mint. They let their die cutter spoil it, which he did most thoroughly, so try not to be too disappointed when you see the coins.. The little $2-1/2 coins don't look so badly but the $5 is a sight! I could not sleep for a night or two after I saw it. The first impression, which Dr. Bigelow showed me at the Symphony two weeks ago, looked quite well. But they tried to retouch it and gee! They made a mess of it! With a few deft touches the butcher or blacksmith, who is at the head of things there, changed it from a thing I was proud of, to one [of which] I am ashamed! Still it is the best coin the U.S. has ever had ..."
Things went from bad to worse when Pratt even failed to get credit for the design. Many newspapers of the time, although mentioning that Pratt had "made the models," credited Bigelow with the design.
Although the designs were greeted with distaste in some quarters fortunately, like many first-year issues, the coins were both well-produced and saved in considerable numbers. The 1908 is an available issue in all grades up to the Gem level but, like all Indian half eagles, it is conditionally rare in any finer grade.
The present example is characterized by deep reddish-gold surfaces with a considerable amount of subtle luster underneath. The strike is bold, and even under a loupe, only a few minuscule marks appear. One of the finest, and a major opportunity for the Registry Set enthusiast. Census: 4 in 67, 1 finer (8/13).(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 28DE, PCGS# 8510)
Weight: 8.36 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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