The $10 Indian Eagle is considered one of America’s most beautiful coins. It was designed by famed sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, who also created the famous $20 Double Eagle of 1907-1933. While the Indian Eagle has always been regarded as an attractive design, it was not always an easy one to mass-produce. Consequently, the $10 Indian went through three major revisions in 1907 (its first year of issue). This article discusses the three major versions of the $10 Indian design.
Before the Indian design was assigned to the $10 Eagle, a unique 1907 $20 Indian pattern coin was actually struck as a prototype. The obverse displays a female native American wearing a feather headdress, while the reverse depicts an eagle flying over the sun. It is essentially a combination of a $10 Indian obverse and a $20 St. Gaudens reverse. The coin was struck in extremely high relief and is exquisite in appearance. This unique specimen last changed hands in the mid-1980s, when it sold for approximately $500,000. Today, the coin is valued in excess of $10,000,000 and resides in a major New England collection.
Eventually it was decided to use the Indian portrait for the $10 Eagle obverse along with a standing eagle for the $10 reverse. At this point, the challenge was finding a way to execute St. Gaudens’ design without compromising production speed and quality. As many numismatists know, the St. Gaudens Double Eagle of 1907-1933 went through numerous revisions in 1907, but the $10 Indian actually followed a similar course. Just as the 1907 St. Gaudens $20 exists in multiple versions (Ultra High Relief, High Relief and regular issue), so too does the 1907 Indian $10.
The first rendition of the $10 Indian is known as the Wire Edge variety, as a thin raised edge is present. This coin is technically a pattern, as just 500 pieces were struck as a trial run. The Mint had difficulty giving these coins a complete and full strike, which is why this version was discontinued so quickly. The central portions of the design were well-struck, but the peripheral details often display weakness. As the tiny mintage of 500 pieces would imply, 1907 Wire Edge Eagles are quite scarce. Most grade between MS63-65 and sell for $35,000-$75,000.
The second edition of 1907 $10 Indians was the Rolled Edge version, which was also plagued with strike issues. Whereas the Wire Edge was weak at the periphery and strongly impressed in the centers, the Rolled Edge had the opposite issue. The stars and wording at the edges were perfectly struck, but the central hair details came out incompletely. It was a case of one step forward and two steps backwards. A large number of these Rolled Edge coins were struck, but virtually all were melted due to the design flaw. Officially just 42 coins were released, of which virtually all have survived. 1907 Rolled Edge $10s sell for a minimum of $200,000 with superb MS66-MS67 pieces worth more like $300,000-$475,000.
The Philadelphia Mint revised the 1907 $10 Indian again, but they still could not fix the strike issue. The third and final version was meant to be an improvement over the Rolled Edge edition, but it was still plagued by a weak strike over Liberty’s ear and on the eagle’s feathers. The Mint must have found a solution by 1908, as that year’s $10 Indians are usually well-struck, but the 1907 issue is notorious for having incomplete design definition.