$10 Indian (1907-1933)

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the entire American coinage spectrum from the cent to the double eagle. Working in his studio in Cornish, New Hampshire (now a National Historic Site), the artist prepared many sketches. In failing health, Saint-Gaudens was able to complete or nearly complete work for just two denominations, the $10 and $20, both of which were first struck in 1907.

His $10 design bore on the obverse a female wearing an Indian war bonnet, said to have been taken from the portrait of his mistress, Davida Clark, with whom he is alleged to have had a child (although biographers have never been able to confirm this). There was an objection in the popular press concerning the portrait, for it was stated that the effigy was of one Mary Cunningham, an Irish-born waitress who worked in a restaurant in Windsor, Vermont, across the river from Cornish, New Hampshire. Some do-gooders said that an immigrant girl should not be depicted on our coins, and that such a design was unfit for use. All of this made interesting reading at the time, but was quickly forgotten.

The reverse of the Indian $10 piece depicted an eagle perched on a branch, the same design used a year later, in modified form, by Bela Lyon Pratt for use on the $2.50 and $5 pieces of 1908.

Eagles of the Saint-Gaudens Indian design were produced continuously from 1907 through 1916, then in 1920 (at the San Francisco Mint only), 1926, 1930 (San Francisco Mint only), 1932, and 1933. Within the 1907-1933 span there are several rare varieties, including the last year of issue, of which just 312,500 were minted, but of which nearly all were melted. Numbered among other rarities are varieties of the 1907 with periods before and after E PLURIBUS UNUM, the 1920-S, and the 1930-S.

The collecting of Indian $10 pieces has formed a popular specialty with many collectors, and the same people who pay no attention to Liberty Head $10 pieces of the 1838-1907 years, collect with fervor the later Saint-Gaudens pieces. As a result, top grade issues have always found a ready market. Most often seen in Uncirculated grades are the 1926 and 1932, which must be rated as common. Apart from these two issues, all high grade Uncirculated pieces are scarce to rare.