Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Content: 90% gold 10% copper
Diameter: 18 millimeters
Weight: 4.18 grams
Mint Mark Legend: Left of the arrowheads on the reverse.
Indian Head Quarter Eagle
Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, so Bigelow apparently contacted and persuaded Bela Lyon
Pratt, a fellow Bostonian and former student of Saint-Gaudens to create a design
for the gold coins. Pratt used Smillie's portrait of a Sioux Chief on the 1899 $5
silver certificate. The reverse displayed a standing eagle which was a virtual copy
of the design Saint-Gaudens had used on both a Roosevelt inaugural medal and the
Indian Head eagle.
In spite of the fact that the sunken design (with devices and legends below the
fields) promised to reduce wear on the features, Philadelphia coin dealer Samuel H.
Chapman and others vigorously opposed the design. Their argument was that the recessed
areas would collect dirt and thus become a disease source. Still others found fault
with both the portrait and the eagle. They also claimed that the coins were easy
to counterfeited. Some even argued the (rimless and flat) coins would not stack
properly. They did not sway the President, and the new design was implemented.
Thousands of business strikes of the Indian Head quarter eagles have been certified,
however, counts are much higher for the examples produced in the 1920s. Prices are
modest for most dates through MS62, expensive to Gem, and very expensive at higher
grades; 1914 pieces are very expensive at MS62 and higher.
Matte proofs were made from 1908 through 1915, but only a few hundred examples have
been certified. The reason for this is that the matte finish was not popular with
collectors at the time, and many unsold pieces were melted at the Mint.