The 1 oz. $5 Indian Silver Round honors, by imitation, one of the most famous coins ever produced in the history of the U.S. Mint: The Indian Head Half Eagle $5 gold coin. Beginning in 1907 the coinage of the United States went through a drastic reform under the direction of President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, who assembled artists for the purpose of sculpting Native American designs onto coins. One of those artists was Boston native Bela Lyon Pratt, who was hired to create the design for the $5.00 Indian gold coins. The design was a huge departure from typical coin designs, in that the entire portrait is “incuse,” meaning that it is a sunken, rather than raised relief. Pratt’s unique design was the outcome of thinking “outside the box.”
President Teddy Roosevelt had been slow to appreciate Native Americans, as indicated by his 1886 New York speech that included the quote, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” His first 7½ years in office were marked by his systematic marginalization of Indians, displacing them from their homelands to create national parks and monuments, which he felt were a better use of Indian lands. In his presidency he spoke of wanting Native Americans to experience the American Dream, but to do so by assimilation. Because the Indian population had been declining for many years, President Roosevelt believed they could achieve the same success and status as other Americans by incorporation into American society. It was towards that end that he developed an interest in developing Indian coins.
- Replica of Indian Head Half Eagle $5 gold coin
- Incuse engraving
- Reeded edge
- Contains: 1 Troy oz of .999 fine silver.
- Produced by Highland Mint and displays the “HM” mint mark on the reverse.
Creating incuse designs like the $5 Indian Head Half Eagle is challenging for not only the artist who sculpts the design, but also for the mint, in that their thinking must be reversed to make sure a quality piece is produced. The $5 Indian Head Half Eagle coin had reeded edges, as does the 1 oz $5 Indian Silver Round. It’s interesting to know why some coins have little ridges along their edges. In 1792 the Coinage Act established the U.S. Mint and specified that $10, $5 and $2.50 coins were to be made of their value in gold or silver, but a problem soon arose. Would-be criminals discovered they could make a profit by filing shavings from the sides of gold and silver coins and selling the precious metal. By the end of the 18th century, the U.S. Mint began adding ridges to the coins’ edges, a process called “Reeding,” in order to make it impossible to shave the coins down without the result being apparent. As an additional benefit, the reeded edges also made counterfeiting more difficult as reeding made the coin designs more intricate. The incuse design on the 1 oz. $5 Indian Silver Round was just as challenging as it had been in the production of the $5 Indian Head Half Eagle.
The obverse of the round features the profile of a Native American Indian in full headdress. Stars surround the Indian in a full circle. There is no “dead space” in this design, which goes all the way to the rim of the coin, making for a stunning effect!
The reverse of the 1 oz. $5 Indian Silver Round displays an American eagle at rest, standing on a fasces, a bundle of elm or birch rods held together by bands, and an olive branch. Inscriptions include, SILVER BULLION ROUND boldly spelled out above the eagle. The arrow below the feet of the peaceful eagle indicates that even a peaceful nation is prepared to go to war if it becomes necessary to defend the nation.