Minted from 1908-1928 Bela Lyon Pratt's incused design of the $5 Indian Head gold half eagle was controversial when first introduced. He wanted the Indian Head half eagle to use an American Indian as an emblem of liberty and to use the incuse design of the ancients. The incused design, with the lettering and fine detail of the Indian head sunken into the surface of the gold was intended to create a durable gold coin that would stand up to the wear of being in general circulation. The $5 and $2.50 Indian Head gold coins are the only United States gold coins to use the technique known as incuse relief, giving the design elements and lettering a sunken-in appearance on a uniformly flat plane.
The obverse pictures an Indian Chief, the first true American Indian ever to appear on United States coinage. Previously, Caucasian models dressed in American Indian attire were used. The chief on the Indian Head is wearing a full-feathered headdress with the word 'Liberty' inscribed above the headband. A border of 13 stars and the minting date encircle him.
The reverse features a proud bald eagle standing among olive branches, surrounded by the words 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.' The motto 'IN GOD WE TRUST' and the denomination also appear on the reverse.
Indian Head $5 Half Eagle (1908-1929)
Designer: Bela Lyon Pratt
Composition: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Diameter: 21.6 mm
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco