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1913 Indian Head Half Eagle : A Collector’s Guide

1913 Indian Head Half Eagle. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1913 Indian Head Half Eagle. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The 1913 Indian Head Half Eagle is readily available up the Choice Uncirculated but becomes scarce in Gem. The total number of grading events at MS65 reported by NGC and PCGS is just over 100, which is midrange for the series, but CAC has given its imprimatur to just 12 coins at this level.

Why are Indian Head Half Eagles so scarce in Gem? Bela Lyon Pratt’s decision to design the coin in Egyptian relief is the answer. With Egyptian relief, the design is sunken into the coin and lies below the flat area known as the field. With the field unprotected, any incidental contact with other hard surfaces will leave noticeable marks. Not helping matters is the softness of the gold.

Indian Head Half Eagle Series Combined MS65 Population. May 2024.
Image: CoinWeek.

These effects are somewhat minimized on the coin’s obverse, as the canvas is dominated by the Indian figure and his ceremonial headdress; however, on the coin’s reverse, Pratt’s rendering of the Saint-Gaudens eagle takes up less than half of the canvas, leaving wide open areas for scratches. Professional graders often say that a coin’s reverse cannot help the grade but can lower it. This maxim holds especially true for the Indian Head Quarter Eagle and Half Eagle.

When reviewing this coin type, a key focal area is the reverse field from the 12 o’clock position to about 3 o’clock. The presence of marks here will likely be of utmost concern to graders and potential buyers.

As for coins graded higher than MS65? Through 2021, PCGS reported a population of just one coin in MS66 – the Jim O’Neal-Bob R. Simpson example. Now, three coins are counted in the PCGS population report at MS66. To date, we have been unable to locate auction appearances of the two new additions, which we describe in detail in our “Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens” section.

Allan Schein Discusses the Gold Indian Coinage of Bela Lyon Pratt


In Episode #40 of the CoinWeek Podcast, NLG-Award-winning author Allan Schein drops by to discuss the Gold Indians of Bela Lyon Pratt, the publication of his book, and the new information that he uncovered relating to the artist’s design process.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS66 (3, 5/2024), NGC MS66 (5, 5/2024), and CAC MS65 (12:0 stickered:graded, 5/2024).

  • PCGS MS66 #47454398: James Sego, as of May 2024. Imaged on PCGS CoinFacts. We have not located any previous auctions for this coin. There is a thin diagonal scratch that extends from the eagle’s back and points towards G. Thin mark under U of UNITED. This coin appears, based on the TruView, to be the finest of the three from a technical standpoint.
  • PCGS MS66 #49014781: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4297 – $45,600. Dark mark at star 3. Tiny dark spot below star 7. Tiny dark spot above E of E PLURIBUS UNUM. A thin curved scratch in a right obverse field extends to G of GOD. This scratch is intersected by a small, deep scratch halfway. Diagonal scratch above eagle’s tailfeather (below RU). Reverse rim hit at 3 o’clock.
  • PCGS MS66 #40276134: As PCGS MS66 CAC #18307675. “The Jim O’Neal Collection of $5 Indians,” Heritage Auctions, January 2011, Lot 5148 – $54,625. O’Neal on insert; Heritage Auctions, July 8, 2011, Lot 4823 – $66,125. As PCGS MS66 #40276134. “The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part IV” Heritage Auctions, February 23, 2021, Lo 3108 – $48,000. Thin diagonal mark from the chin to the top of star 4. There are two tiny diagonal hits on the cheek. Tiny hit on the eyebrow. There is a green copper spot on the eagle’s left claw. Diagonal hit below UNUM. Small ticks above the eagle and to the left of its leg. Tiny horizontal mark above the eagle’s head. Tiny diagonal mark above the tip of the tailfeathers.
  • PCGS MS65+ #45697137: Stack’s Bowers, March 21, 2023, Lot 3225 – $13,200.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1913
Denomination: Five Dollars (USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 915,901
Alloy: .900 Gold, .100 Copper
Weight: 8.359 g
Diameter: 21.60 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
REV Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Quality: Business Strike


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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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