Research Reveals the Top 4 Dates In This Coin Series
1910 $10 Indian
On the merits of its design alone, the $10 Indian is one of our favorite United States coins.
When the name Augustus Saint-Gaudens is mentioned to numismatists, most think of the $20 Double Eagle design. However, what some may not realize, is Saint-Gaudens also created the iconic $10 Indian design. In fact, this motif was his first choice for the $20 Double Eagle. Saint-Gaudens felt it was uniquely American, and, from a pure artistic standpoint, one of his finest works. His $20 Double Eagle may be more famous, but the $10 Indian was actually the artist’s favorite work.
At the time, President Theodore Roosevelt wished to have Saint-Gaudens redesign all four American gold coins, but tragically the famous sculptor passed away in 1907 after only completing the $10 Eagle and $20 Double Eagle.
The new task of overhauling the $2.50 Quarter Eagle and $5 Half Eagle was assigned to one of Saint-Gaudens’ protégés, Bela Lyon Pratt. Nonetheless, Roosevelt’s goal of beautifying our country’s gold coinage was achieved. Art historians and numismatists consider the $2.50 Indian, $5 Indian, $10 Indian and $20 “Saint” gold coins to be among the most gorgeous and innovative designs.
The $10 Indian has become a favorite among collectors. Saint-Gaudens’ masterful artistry is evident in his coin; the design features are both intricate and beautifully expressed. The obverse displays a portrait of a native American wearing a large feather headdress with the date displayed below. Thirteen stars, honoring the original thirteen colonies, are arranged towards the top. On the reverse, an eagle is perched with an olive branch and bundle of arrows at its talons. This dual imagery symbolizes America’s military strength combined with a desire for peace.
Like the $20 Saint, the $10 Indian was produced from 1907 to 1933. From a rarity standpoint, the coin can be divided into two main categories: 1) the common 1926/1932 issues, and 2) all other dates. By a wide margin, the most frequently encountered dates are 1926 and 1932.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was significant demand for $10 Indians among domestic and international banks. Europeans in particular, liked holding the $10 Indian due to its moderate size (compared to the large $20 Double Eagle). The U.S. Mint responded with massive levels of production those two years.
All other dates, meanwhile, are substantially more difficult to locate. This is especially true in higher Uncirculated grades. Whereas loads of 1926 and 1932 $10 Indians were safely preserved in overseas bank vaults, the 1907-1916 issues were far less likely to be stashed away. Not only do they have much lower mintages, but they tended to enter circulation. When President, Franklin Roosevelt recalled United States gold coins in 1933, many of the circulating 1907-1916 dates were destroyed – while large quantities of 1926 and 1932 coins remained safe in international bank vaults.
When comparing the 1907-1916 dates to the 1926/1932 dates, the difference in rarity becomes stark at lofty grade levels. We began researching PCGS/NGC populations in the MS64 grade and were shocked at what we saw. In MS64, NGC has graded 12,277 coins dated 1932. By contrast, four dates between 1910-1912 have MS64 populations of under 1,000! The 1910, 1910-D, 1911 and 1912 all have NGC MS64 populations of just 275-925 coins, making them 13x-42x rarer.
What’s even more surprising is reconciling this massive difference in rarity with current market prices. The population data suggests these four dates should be worth many, many times the price of a 1932. If a common 1932 trades for $1,400 or so, these four rare dates should be $5,000-$10,000 coins. Yet, somehow, they’re not! Unexpectedly, we found these coins were trading in the low $2,000s. Armed with this knowledge, we tried to find every one of these in the marketplace.
Our difficulty in sourcing these coins confirmed how rare they are. Despite our very best efforts, we could only find 29 pieces. We could have bought hundreds of common MS64 $10 Indians during that same time period, but we basically hit a brick wall locating coins dated between 1910-1912. It’s one thing to identify a good value on paper using statistics and population figures, but when the coins simply don’t exist in the market, it’s real-world confirmation of how rare the coins are.
There’s one more reason why we love these better-date $10 Indians in MS64 - they are worth drastically more in MS65. If you can find one, these four dates are worth anywhere from $7,000-$10,000 in the next grade. With that much distance between the MS64 and MS65 price points, there’s ample room for these coins to grow in value.
When there’s only a tiny spread between two grades, it’s difficult for the lower grade to appreciate. In a scenario like this, conversely, there’s significant opportunity for the lower grade to advance in price. Furthermore, an MS64 in the low $2,000s is much more affordable to collectors than a $9,000 MS65 piece. This makes the MS64 more desirable and liquid.
$10 Indians are particularly stunning in MS64; a coin must possess strong luster and excellent eye appeal at this grade level. Seeing a high-grade $10 Indian in the flesh is quite a treat; they’re one of the most impressive of all American coins.
If you’re going to own $10 Indians, these better-date MS64s represent the very best value. For less than a 50% premium over what a common date would cost, you can own a coin that’s 13-42 times rarer. Normally these dates should be trading for well in excess of $5,000 per coin, but in today’s market, they’re buyable in the low $2,000s. A wave of new $10 Indian collectors or a large-scale promotion of the series would likely push these prices much higher. Whereas a decent supply of 1926 and 1932 pieces is available on the market, the 1910-1912 dates are virtually non-existent. Finding these 29 coins took tremendous time and effort, but placing all of them with buyers might take just one morning.
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