Until 1908, no American coin has been produced with an incuse design, whereas the design is impressed into the metal and is lower than the field.
Indian Head gold pieces are unlike any other coins produced before or since by Uncle Sam: Their designs and inscriptions are sunken below the surface of the coins, rather than being raised. This innovative technique was quite daring, for no other modern coins had ever used it. In normal times, in fact, the idea might well have been scrapped. But new ideas were welcome in national affairs in the early 1900s, thanks in large measure to one larger-than-life individual: President Theodore Roosevelt. The restless, dynamic Roosevelt took a personal interest in virtually all aspects of the American scene—including the nation’s coinage—and left his personal imprint on many areas.
Critics of the design feared that the recessed features would collect disease-bearing dirt, and that the coins would be unhealthy and become unsightly. In reality, the incuse coins gathered no more dirt than coins with raised relief. The Indian Head half eagle had made its first appearance in 1908, along with a quarter eagle (or $2.50 gold piece) of identical design. Beyond their unusual relief, they also represented the first fundamental design change in the two denominations in nearly 70 years. Other than the addition of the words IN GOD WE TRUST in 1866, the previous half eagle—which carried a portrait of Liberty with a coronet in her hair—had been basically the same since its origin in 1839.
After 1929, the Indian Head half-eagle was never struck again. In fact, a circulating U.S. $5 gold coin was never struck again. By 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard, and indeed, it was illegal even to OWN a gold coin (unless its collectible status was apparent).
Obverse: The obverse depicts the portrait of an head of an Indian facing left with thirteen stars encircling him.
Reverse: The reverse shows an eagle facing left.
Overall:The 1929 half eagle is the big key in the series, worth several thousand dollars even in circulated grades. Records list its mintage as 662,000, but the vast majority apparently were melted. In 1909, however, there was a record- low production at the New Orleans mint, with just 34,000 struck. It’s also one of two key dates in the series.
Other rarer dates include the 1911-D and 1908-S, all with mintages under 100,000. Small numbers of matte proofs were made every year from 1908 through 1915.