An ASI First: $10 Indians in MS65
By Brian Zweig
MS65 $10 Indian Double Eagle
In the fine art and numismatic worlds, the name Augustus Saint-Gaudens is legendary. Hailed as one of the finest sculptors of the Beaux Arts-era, Saint-Gaudens’ work can be seen in numerous museums, parks, and public buildings. If you’ve ever been to Boston Common, New York’s Central Park, or Washington’s Union Station, chances are you’ve walked by one of his sculptures. In the realm of numismatics, Saint-Gaudens is primarily known for the eponymous $20 Double Eagle. The $20 Double Eagle minted from 1907 to 1933 is affectionately known as the “Saint” in honor of its designer.
While Saint-Gaudens is most closely associated with the $20 Double Eagle, he designed the $10 Indian Eagle, too. In fact, this motif was his personal favorite and was originally proposed for the $20 Double Eagle. Thankfully, the effort did not go to waste—the Indian design was ultimately adopted for the $10 Eagle of 1907 through 1933. This coin has become one of the most beloved items in American numismatics—and now it’s one of the best values, too!
History of the $10 Indian
The origins of the $10 Indian date back to 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt decided to revitalize America’s coinage. Indeed, the gold denominations were in desperate need of an overhaul. The Quarter Eagle, Half Eagle, and Eagle hadn’t seen a major design refresh in over 60 years. Rather than use the existing mint engravers, Roosevelt pushed to commission a private artist for the redesigns. Mint Director George E. Roberts agreed with Roosevelt and hired Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the task in 1905.
Roosevelt took personal interest in the project and corresponded directly with Saint-Gaudens. In one of their exchanges, Roosevelt mentioned he inspected some of the Smithsonian Institute’s ancient coins. He felt the most beautiful specimens were struck in high relief—and Saint-Gaudens agreed. Taking the ancient theme further, Saint-Gaudens proposed expressing the date in Roman numerals rather than standard Arabic numbers. Treasury Secretary Leslie Shaw felt this was unwise and confusing, but Roosevelt sided with Saint-Gaudens and authorized the use of Roman numerals.
In 1907, a unique prototype $20 Double Eagle was struck using Saint-Gaudens’ proposed design. The coin featured an Indian princess on the obverse, which closely resembled the eventual $10 Indian design. The flying eagle on the reverse closely resembles the final $20 Saint design. The coin was struck in extremely high relief, and the date was displayed in Roman numerals. Mysteriously, just one piece was made.
Because this unique prototype incorporated all of Roosevelt’s preferences, it has been nicknamed “Teddy’s Coin” within the numismatic community. Due to its beauty, historical importance, and rarity, it is regarded as the most valuable United States coin. It last sold in a 1981 auction for $475,000. But now, it’s valued well in excess of $10,000,000! If offered at auction today, it almost surely would set a new price record for any United States coin.
“Teddy’s Coin” was visually stunning, but Mint Director Roberts criticized it heavily. While Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens were primarily interested in the coin’s appearance, Roberts was concerned with practicalities. He felt the high relief format would make the coin hard to stack and count. If the coins were difficult to handle, banks throughout the world would avoid them. Striking a coin with such deep design details required multiple impressions from the dies and a tremendous amount of pressure. Roberts agreed with Treasury Secretary Shaw that the Roman numeral date was confusing and unfitting for an English-speaking country.
Ultimately, Roberts prevailed, and Saint-Gaudens began work on a new design. The core design elements of “Teddy’s Coin” found their way into the $10 and $20 gold pieces. The Indian princess motif was eventually chosen for the $10 Eagle coin, and the reverse design was used for the $20 Double Eagle. Even in lower relief, both coins were gorgeous and extremely well-liked by the general public. The only complaint was the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” was initially omitted. After some public uproar, this phrase was added to the reverse in 1908.
$10 Indians were struck every year from 1907 through 1916, but productions halted in 1917 as a result of World War I. Gold coins were commanding a premium over melt at the time, and the U.S. Mint saw little need to release coins that would vanish from circulation. There was another spurt of production at the San Francisco Mint in 1920, but the output was small.
Of all the $10 Indians originally produced, only a small percentage still survive today. With the 1933 Executive Order to turn in all gold coins, millions of pieces were destroyed. If not for the fact that some pieces were exported to Europe and repatriated later, the $10 Indians would be wildly rare. Unfortunately, most of the $10 Indians recovered from Europe were jostled around in bank bags for decades, resulting in heavily abraded and unattractive surfaces. The vast majority of the surviving $10 Indians are well-worn or low-end Uncirculated coins. These become scarce at the MS64 level and quite rare in Gem Uncirculated MS65. We estimate that just 1% to 2% of all $10 Indians qualify for the MS65 grade.
The Lowest We’ve Seen $10 Indians in Over a Decade!
Put bluntly, the MS65 $10 Indian is currently at the lowest level we’ve seen since 2005. In fact, it’s trading for a third of its peak!
A review of NGC’s historical price database shows this coin has vacillated between $3,000 and $8,500 per coin over the last 13 years. In 2006, when gold staged a remarkable rally, the MS65 $10 Indian surged by a whopping $3,000 in just several months! The coin literally exploded in value from $5,500 to $8,500 per coin in the first half of the year. MS65 $10 Indians corrected later that year but recovered in 2007 and 2008, when they steadily climbed from $5,250 to $8,250 per coin.
The MS65 $10 Indian has been less volatile in recent years—prices have hovered in the $3,000 to $4,250 per coin range. NGC currently assigns a value of $3,100 for this coin. However, just last week, we were offered a group of these coins at a steal of a price. We’re accustomed to paying $3,000 to $4,000 for this coin, and never before has this coin dipped into the $2,000 range! When we saw this price, we were quick to pounce! It’s been probably 15 to 20 years since we’ve seen the MS65 $10 Indian at such a reasonable level.
We have two dates available for today’s offer: 1926 and 1932. For single-coin orders, the date will be of our choice, but we can guarantee both a 1926 and 1932 specimen for orders of two or more coins. The 1932 $10 Indian is a particularly significant coin, since it’s one of the last U.S. gold coins ever struck by the U.S. Mint. While 1933 was the official last year, most gold coins dated 1933 never left the Mint and were melted. A 1933 $10 Indian, for instance, is worth anywhere between $300,000 and $800,000 depending on condition. Thus, the 1932 $10 Indian is the last American $10 Eagle within most collectors’ budgets.
Our Spotlight program has existed for nearly six years, but this is the very first time we’ve been able to showcase the $10 Indian in MS65. This is a testament to the coin’s rarity—the $10 Indian is one of the most difficult gold coins to locate in MS65 condition. Furthermore, today’s price level is the lowest in well over a decade. While we’ve long admired this coin, never before have we seen it at such an attractive price point. Don’t miss this opportunity to grab this storied, beautiful coin at a steal of a rate! To secure these fascinating MS65 $10 Liberties while they’re still available, please call us at 800-831-0007 or email us.
*Prices subject to change based on market fluctuation and product availability. Prices reflected are for cash, check, or bank wire. Free shipping, handling, and insurance are available for all purchases. Offer expires Friday, July 13, 2018, or while supplies last.