Coin Specifications

Category: Indian Head $5 (1908-1929)
Mint: Denver
Mintage: 148,000
Catalog: KM-129
Obverse Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Reverse Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Composition: Gold
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 8.3600g
AGW: 0.2420oz
Melt Value: $319.92 (8/28/2016)
Diameter: 21.6mm
Edge: Reeded
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1908 D $5 MS obverse 1908 D $5 MS reverse

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There are no NGC varieties for this coin.

Description & Analysis

There are numerous connections between noted sculptors-coin designers Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Bela Lyon Pratt, Saint-Gaudens assistant Henry Hering, and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Saint-Gaudens, of course, achieved renown both as a sculptor and designer of the double eagle and eagle coins that bear his name. Bela Lyon Pratt (1867-1917), designer of the incused Indian Head quarter eagle and half eagles, was a Norwich, Connecticut, native who began study at age 16 at the Yale School of Fine Arts. At age 19 he entered the Art Students League in New York, where Saint-Gaudens taught. On Saint-Gaudens' recommendation Pratt studied at Paris' cole des Beaux-Arts, returning to the United States in 1892. He was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1894. Pratt was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale in 1899. (A note in Roger Burdette's seminal Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 notes that 'Pratt was not one of Augustus' assistants, and may have considered The Saint more of a competitor than mentor.' Nonetheless, the Yale website identifies Pratt as Saint-Gaudens 'former assistant.')

Yale's famous statue of Revolutionary War hero-martyr Nathan Hale, which stands on the Old Campus outside of Connecticut Hall where Hale slept as a Yale student, is a Bela Lyon Pratt design. The alumni donors who commissioned the statue were unable to afford Saint-Gaudens' fee, so they turned to Pratt for the design. In Yale's Memorial Hall (part of Woolsey Hall), a memorial to the Yale graduates who gave their lives in the Civil War is graced by four statues, 'Peace, Devotion, Memory, and Courage,' designed by Saint-Gaudens' assistant Henry Hering. According to the Yale site, 'Dynamic crevices and profound shadows temper the rigid austerity of the cold marble bodies, connecting this monument stylistically to the work of Hering's mentor, the celebrated turn-of-the-century American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.'

When the novel, incused Indian Head-design quarter eagles and half eagles made their debut in 1908, no less prominent a numismatist than Samuel H. Chapman fired off a pointed criticism of the design to President Roosevelt, objecting to--among other things--the eagle, the Indian's portrait, and the incuse design. Roosevelt sent the objections on to his friend William Sturgis Bigelow, whose impetus for the incuse coinage led to his hiring Pratt to model the designs. Bigelow refuted the objections point by point, to which Chapman provided a rebuttal, but in any case the gold coinage proceeded, although little loved at the time.

Despite a plentiful mintage of 148,000 coins, the 1908-D is a difficult issue to obtain in Gem grade. Most survivors average MS62 or thereabouts.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 10/12/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1908 D $5 MS
Base $ 435 445 455 465 475 500 510 550 570 585 725 1150 1850 3850 45000 - - - - -
$ - - - - - - - 1425 2500 4950 - - - -

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Total Graded: 2779
Low Grade: 40
Average Grade: 62
High Grade: 65

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/3/2006 NGC MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2006 January Orlando, FL (FUN) Signature Auction #394, 394/Lot# 5333 $4,314.80
1/9/2006 PCGS AU 55   Heritage Auctions 2006 January Orlando, FL FUN Online Session #395, 395/Lot# 27499 $546.25
8/19/2007 NGC MS 61   Teletrade Auction 2410, 2410/Lot# 1946 $700.00
6/26/2008 NGC MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2008 June West Palm Beach, FL (Summer FUN) Signature Coin Auction #1110, 1110/Lot# 2065 $3,737.50
1/29/2012 PCGS MS 63   Goldberg January 29 - February 1, 2012 The Pre-Long Beach Auction, 67/Lot# 1696 $2,185.00
2/16/2014 PCGS MS 63   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 02/16/2014, 174/Lot# 171815 $1,496.00
3/28/2014 NGC MS 64   Stack's Bowers March 2014 Baltimore Auction, 6008/Lot# 6247 $2,585.00
12/7/2014 NGC MS 64   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 833, 842/Lot# 348 $2,350.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1908 D $5 MS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 64
Points: 3470
Owner: H.I.M.
Grade: MS 61
Points: 1589
Owner: Lauderdale
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