By CoinWeek ….
As part of GreatCollections.com’s weekly online coin auction, bidding ends Sunday (October 20) for this Proof 67 1914 Indian Head $2.50 quarter eagle gold coin. Along with the Indian Head $5 half eagle, the Indian Head quarter eagle’s distinctive incuse design, created by Boston sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt, was initially unpopular with numismatists and the public upon its debut in 1908. Nevertheless, collectors came to their senses over the course of the last century, and many now seek out the unusual design for its inherent beauty.
Only 117 Proofs were minted in Philadelphia in 1914, and of that original mintage around 80 to 90 coins are known to have survived. Of that number, NGC has certified only 13 examples at PF-67 with five higher: one in 67+ and four in 68. There are a handful of auction records for an NGC Proof 67, with the oldest being a sale in January 2007 when an example went for $32,200 USD. The highest archived hammer price happened over a year later, with a specimen selling for $40,250 in July 2008. An auction in May 2011 saw the price fall to $34,500, and by July 2012 it had dipped slightly to $32,200 yet again. Yet the most recent auction record (from April 2015) shows the coin rebounding to $35,250.
After 28 bids and with five days left to go at the time of publication, the highest bid for this 1914 Proof Indian Head quarter eagle is $15,500.
Of course, you may want to check GreatCollections themselves for any sales of the Proof 1914 quarter eagle that we might have missed. To do that, or to check out how the other great coins that you need for your collection have performed, you can search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
A Brief History of the Indian Head Quarter Eagle
The early part of the 20th century was a time of great creativity in the design of U.S. circulating coinage.
August Saint-Gaudens’ $20 double eagle was introduced in 1907, along with his Indian Head $10 eagle. Victor D. Brenner’s Lincoln cent, commemorating in 1909 the centennial of the President’s birth, broke new ground – it was the first use of a presidential portrait on a circulating coin. A few years later in 1913, James Earl Fraser’s Indian Head, or Buffalo, nickel was introduced, followed in 1916 by Adolf A. Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head (“Mercury”) dime and Liberty Walking half dollar and Hermon A. MacNeil’s Standing Liberty quarter.
Following the acclaim received for Saint-Gaudens’ stunning efforts on the $10 and $20 gold pieces, President Theodore Roosevelt turned his attention to the other two gold denominations, the quarter eagle and the half eagle (production of one dollar gold coins had ended in 1889).
Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, and though he had done some work for the smaller denomination gold coins, the designs remained unfinished. Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, a physician and art collector from Boston, had admired Egyptian reliefs displayed in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. A close friend of the president, Bigelow promoted the idea of using a sunken design on American coins, and Roosevelt agreed. Bigelow then contacted and persuaded fellow Bostonian Bela Lyon Pratt–a former student of Saint-Gaudens–to create designs for the gold coins.
Pratt used the same portrait on both denominations, a realistic image of a Native American chief. The reverse displayed a bold standing eagle – a virtual copy of and perhaps a tribute to the design Saint-Gaudens had used both on his 1905 Roosevelt inaugural medal and the Indian Head eagle. The use of an Indian on the coin followed the appearance of G.F.C. Smillie’s portrait of a Sioux Chief on the 1899 $5 silver certificate, but the imagery may also have been recognition of Roosevelt’s frontier heritage.
Not everyone approved of the designs, however, and Philadelphia coin dealer Samuel H. Chapman was one of the most vigorous in opposition. The incuse design, with devices and legends below the fields of the coin, promised to reduce wear on the features, but some thought the recessed areas would collect dirt and thus become a source of disease. These fears turned out to be unfounded.
Others criticized both the portrait and the eagle, though Mint Engraver Charles E. Barber, ever conscious of the technical necessities of coin production, had modified Pratt’s original eagle design. Claims that the coins could be easily counterfeited or wouldn’t stack properly (an odd comment given the fact that the coins were rimless and had no design high points above the flat field) did not sway the President, and the new design was implemented. The Indian Head quarter eagle was minted yearly through 1915, after which production stopped, and then again from 1925 through 1929, an apparent victim of the stock market crash.
The obverse is dominated by a left-facing portrait of a determined-looking Native American chief wearing a full-feathered war bonnet. LIBERTY is at the top and the date is at the bottom. Six five-point stars are placed to the left along the coin edge, and seven to the right. The designer’s initials “B.L.P.” are located below the portrait and above the date. The reverse displays a standing eagle facing to the left, perched upon a bundle of arrows with an entwined olive branch. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the words separated by centered dots, is at the top, and the denomination 2 1/2 DOLLARS is at the bottom. E PLURIBUS UNUM, each word on a separate line, is to the left of the eagle. IN GOD WE TRUST, also with each word on a separate line, is to the right.
Business strike Indian Head quarter eagles were minted at Philadelphia and Denver; the D mintmark is located just to the left of the arrowheads. All design features except the D mintmark are incuse, recessed below the field, with no design elements higher than that flat surface. Matte Proofs were made from 1908 through 1915, and a few hundred examples have been certified. The matte finish was not popular with collectors at the time of issue, and many unsold pieces were later melted by the Mint. Indian Head quarter eagle proofs are considerably rare in Select Proof and finer.