Collecting Indian Head Quarter Eagles 1908-1929

Posted on 11/8/2012

Indian Head Quarter Eagles are extremely popular with collectors.

Beginning this week I will give an analysis by date of two very popular coin series: Indian Head Quarter Eagles and Indian Head Half Eagles. Both series are extremely popular with collectors primarily because it is possible, for the most part, to assemble complete sets. The Indian Head Quarter Eagle set is a much less difficult task to tackle and we will start with that series.

The biggest obstacle for the series is deciding what grade to collect. Typically, the coins vary from one grade to another and some are nearly unobtainable in full Gem condition. In the old days, before coin certification, this set was usually offered in an attractive Capital Plastics holder. Coins in these sets would generally range in grade and sometimes contain coins of questionable authenticity. Unfortunately, these coins are among the most counterfeited of all US gold coins. Collectors today have a much easier task as most focus on grades that fit their budgets and they know that when buying NGC–certified coins, there are no concerns about authenticity.

1908. Mintage: 565,057. The new Quarter Eagle featured an incuse design. The portrait and eagle are lowered into the surface. That is why grading the series can be difficult, as the highest points for the issue are the obverse and reverse fields. The new design created by Bella Lyon Pratt features a Native American Indian Chief on the obverse and an eagle facing left on the reverse. The date was saved extensively as a first year of issue and can usually be found in most grades with modest effort. Most examples lack definition on the upper portion of the eagle’s wing. Many are also found with rather severe die clashes that can sometimes confuse the novice as to the authenticity of the coin. Although many were saved, MS 66 coins are actually quite rare and only about 60 have been graded by NGC to date. Just three coins have been certified as MS 67 (11/12), with one having sold at auction in 2006 for $37,375.

1909. Mintage: 441,889. In lower grades the 1909 is readily obtainable. Most are well struck in comparison to the 1908 issue and usually feature light green–gold coloration. The 1909 issue is scarce at the Gem MS 65 level, with four or five usually crossing the auction block each year. Only two dozen have been graded as Superb MS 66. As will be a common theme for the series, none have been certified as MS 67 or higher (11/12).

1910. Mintage: 492,682. The luster and strike for the 1910 is very similar to that of the 1909 issue. Some, however, are seen with weakness of strike near the rims on both the obverse and reverse. The coins look very “mushy” and can be confused with poorly made counterfeits. Lower grade examples are very easy to purchase, but in Gem condition the date becomes quite rare. Less than 175 coins have been certified at that level. Superb examples are almost non-existent with only a dozen certified as MS 66 (11/12). None have appeared at auction since 2008 when one sold for $13,800.

1911. Mintage: 704,191. Quarter Eagles struck in 1911 have a much more granular appearance. The luster is more subdued and the strike can sometimes be weak on the eagle’s wingtip. Mid–range Mint State coins are slightly scarcer than the later issues. In the higher grades of Mint State the issue becomes quite rare. NGC reports a population of only 177 MS 65 coins and just 6 at the MS 66 level (11/12). Collectors should remember that the Indian Head Quarter series is highly collected and coins with low survival rates in Gem condition are always in high demand.

1911–D. Mintage: 55,680. This date is the undisputed “KEY” to the series. Because of its low mintage and survival rate, this date brings a healthy price in circulated condition. The 1911–D Indian Head Quarter Eagle has by far the lowest mintage and it seems that surprisingly few were saved. The issue is usually well struck and is peculiar in that nearly every genuine example is seen with a pronounced wire rim on the obverse. This feature is a diagnostic of the date, and is even seen on examples that have a very weak D mint mark. It is recommended to avoid the weak D examples of this date. The resale value is usually quite soft. The 1911–D is not the rarest Indian Head Quarter Eagle in MS 65 condition, but it is certainly the most expensive. The date is extremely rare in superb condition. Just two examples have been graded by NGC at that level (11/12).

1912. Mintage: 616,197. As can be seen from the rather high mintage figure for the date, the issue is rather common in circulated condition and the lower Mint State grades. The date is sometimes softly struck with a shallow appearance. The 1912 Quarter Eagle is somewhat scarce in Choice condition and becomes very rare at the Gem level. Just a few examples are offered at auction in Gem condition. The most recent NGC example sold for $9,945 in 2012. Just two 1912 Indian Head Quarter Eagles have been certified as MS 66 and neither has crossed the auction block (11/12). Interestingly, the date is sometimes accumulated by marketers and sold as a tangible link to the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.

1913. Mintage: 722,165. The production of the Quarter Eagle continued in 1913 at a rather healthy pace and finding an example of the issue is a simple matter in most grades. The surface and luster for the issue is somewhat dull, but most are seen well struck. The date becomes rare at the Gem level, with less than 100 coins certified (11/12). The date is extremely rare in MS 66 condition, and I have only seen one or two that would qualify as that grade. It is interesting that the series that can be found in prodigious quantities, but the issue is nearly unknown in MS 67 condition.

1914. Mintage: 240,117. As can be seen from the rather sharp drop in mintage, the 1914 is one of the more scarce coins for the series. It is considered the second best date and is difficult to obtain in any level of Mint State. The price of a 1914 Indian Head Quarter Eagle jumps rather sharply from one grade to the next and is a favorite of re–submitters. The population numbers should be viewed with some skepticism, as many of the tags have not been returned to update the population reports. As would be expected, the 1914 is very rare in Gem condition, with just one or two trading hands at auction each year. Only two coins have been certified as MS 66 (11/12).

1914–D. Mintage: 448,000. Like the 1914 Philadelphia issue, the 1914–D was not saved and circulated widely. Low grade examples can be found rather easily, but in Choice and Gem condition, the date is very rare. Most, but not all, examples of the date are found with ill defined details on both the obverse and reverse. A small number were struck with dies that are well prepared and should bring a premium. The 1914–D does not have the same status as the popular 1914 issue, but is actually rarer in Gem condition. An NGC MS 65 coin sold at auction in 2012 for $28,750.

1915. Mintage: 606,100. Despite the continuance of World War I, the production for the Indian Head Quarter Eagle actually increased somewhat from the year before. The date is quite common in all grades below the Gem level and can be found with little difficulty. Amazingly, only 7 coins have been graded MS 66 (11/12) and none have appeared at auction in recent years.

1925–D. Mintage: 578,000. After a decade–long gap in production, the Indian Head Quarter Eagle appeared once again. The Denver Mint was brought into action and produced a quantity similar to that of earlier years. For some reason, this and later dates were saved in large numbers. The 1925–D is the most common of the series and can be found in all grades up to MS 65 with little difficulty. The luster for the issue is among the best for the series, but the date can sometimes be found weakly struck. The 1925–D is one of the only dates with an example certified as MS 67 (11/12).

1926. Mintage: 446,000. The 1926 Indian Head Quarter Eagle is among the most common issues for the series. The date can be found in all grades including MS 65. All of the late date (1925–D to 1929) issues are usually purchased as examples for the type. Superb examples are very rare and none have been graded MS 67 (11/12).

1927. Mintage: 388,000. The 1927 Indian Head Quarter Eagle is similar in rarity to the above two issues and can be found in all grades below MS 66. Most are well struck with excellent luster. The date is ideal for Type coin collectors. Superb coins are surprisingly rare with just nine coins certified by NGC as MS 66 (11/12).

1928. Mintage: 416,000. Most examples seen for the date are well struck with excellent luster. The date is among the better produced for the series, and is ideal for Type coin collectors as well. As is the common theme for the late date coins from the series, a small number have been graded MS 66, but none have achieved the MS 67 designation (11/12).

1929. Mintage: 532,000. The start of the Great Depression brought an end to this short lived series. 1929 is the last year of production and can be found in ample quantities. Most are nicely struck with great luster. For some reason, this date is found with more than average bag marks. At the Gem level, it is actually somewhat rarer than the other dates from 1925 to 1928. Only about 200 have been certified by NGC as MS 65 and the date brings a healthy premium in Gem condition. Just two coins have been certified as MS 66 and, as such, is one of the most elusive at that grade for the series (11/12).

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