$5 Gold Indian Head Half Eagles

By the early 20th century, the designs of U.S. gold coins were long overdue for a makeover. The Liberty Head design had been employed for nearly 60 years with little modification. President Theodore Roosevelt took personal interest in redesigning the nation’s gold coins and commissioned famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create new patterns for the $10 and $20 gold pieces, which debuted in 1907 with much fanfare. The new $2.50 and $5 designs followed the next year. These two coins are distinctly unusual because they are the only U.S. coins with incuse designs— that is, the letters and images are depressed into an otherwise flat plane. This concept originated from W. S. Bigelow, a close friend of Roosevelt who was impressed by the Egyptian reliefs in the Boston Museum of Fine arts. The obverse features a Native American warrior with a feathered war bonnet encircled by 13 stars, representing the original states. The reverse features an eagle perched upon fasces intertwined with an olive branch, symbolic of peace and preparedness. Coined from 1908 to 1916 and once again in 1929, this short-lived series was the last $5 gold piece in U.S. history.

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