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Have You Ever Heard of "Teddy's Coin"?

Over the years, $20 “Saints” have figured prominently in our Spotlight offerings. These iconic gold Double Eagles are named for Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who crafted their gorgeous and ubiquitous motif. What few numismatists realize is that another celebrated U.S. coin was designed by Saint-Gaudens: the 1907-1933 $10 Indian Eagle. In fact, the image that appeared on this coin was Saint-Gaudens’ personal favorite – and  was initially considered for the Double Eagle! 

The history of the $10 Indian begins in 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt decided to revitalize America’s coinage. Indeed, the gold denominations were in desperate need of an overhaul. The quarter eagle, half eagle and eagle hadn’t seen a major design refresh in over sixty years. Rather than use the existing mint engravers, Roosevelt pushed to commission a private artist for the redesigns. Mint Director George E. Roberts agreed with Roosevelt and hired Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the task in 1905.

Roosevelt took personal interest in the project and corresponded directly with Saint-Gaudens. In one of their exchanges, Roosevelt mentioned he inspected some of the Smithsonian Institute’s ancient coins. He felt the most beautiful specimens were struck in high relief—and Saint-Gaudens agreed. Taking the ancient theme further, Saint-Gaudens proposed expressing the date in Roman numerals rather than standard Arabic numbers. Treasury Secretary Leslie Shaw felt this was unwise and confusing, but Roosevelt sided with Saint-Gaudens and authorized the use of Roman numerals.

In 1907, a unique prototype $20 gold piece was struck using Saint-Gaudens’ proposed design. The coin featured an Indian princess on the obverse, similar to the eventual $10 Indian design. The flying eagle on the reverse closely resembles the final $20 ‘Saint’ design. The coin was struck in extremely high relief and the date was displayed in roman numerals. Mysteriously, just one piece was made! Since this unique prototype incorporated all of Roosevelt’s preferences, it has been nicknamed ‘Teddy’s Coin’ within the numismatic community. As a result of its beauty, historical importance and rarity, it is regarded as the most valuable United States coin. It last sold in a 1981 auction for $475,000. But now, it’s valued well in excess of $10,000,000. If offered at auction today, it almost surely would set a new price record for any United States coin.

‘Teddy’s Coin’ was visually stunning, but Mint Director Roberts criticized it heavily. While Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens were primarily interested in the coin’s appearance, Roberts was concerned with practicalities. He felt the high relief format would make the coin hard to stack and count. If the coins were difficult to handle, banks throughout the world would avoid them. Striking a coin with such deep design details required multiple impressions from the dies and a tremendous amount of pressure.
Roberts agreed with Treasury Secretary Shaw the Roman numeral date was confusing and unfitting for an English-speaking country.

Ultimately, Roberts prevailed and Saint-Gaudens began work on a new design. The core design elements of ‘Teddy’s Coin’ found their way into the $10 and $20 gold pieces. The Indian princess motif was eventually chosen for the $10 eagle coin while the reverse design was used for the $20 double eagle. Even in lower relief, both coins were gorgeous and extremely well-liked by the general public. The only complaint was the motto ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ was initially omitted. After some public uproar, this phrase was added to the reverse in 1908.

$10 Indians were struck every year from 1907 through 1916, but productions halted in 1917 as a result of World War I. Gold coins were commanding a premium over melt at the time and the U.S. Mint saw little need to release coins that would vanish from circulation. There was another spurt of production at the San Francisco mint in 1920, but the output was small. Today, 1920-S $10 Indians are worth anywhere from $25,000 to $1.75 million, depending on condition. The Philadelphia Mint produced coins in 1926 and 1932, but by 1933 the coin was discontinued altogether. Almost every 1933 issue was destroyed before release. As a result, surviving specimens are worth in the hundreds of thousands.

Of all the $10 Indians originally produced, only a small percentage still survive today. With the 1933 federal order to turn in all gold coins, millions of pieces were destroyed. If not for the fact some pieces were exported to Europe and repatriated later, the $10 Indians would be wildly rare.

Unfortunately, most of the $10 Indians recovered from Europe were jostled around in bank bags for decades, resulting in heavily abraded and unattractive surfaces. The vast majority grade of the surviving $10 Indians are well-worn or low-end Uncirculated coins. These become scarce at the MS63 level and quite rare in MS64. We estimate no more than 5% of all $10 Indians qualify for the MS64 grade. 

$10 Indians aren’t just rare in MS64; they’re an outstanding value at today’s levels too! NGC’s historical price database shows this coin routinely traded for $3000 or more within the past 10-15 years (even when gold spot was under $1,000 per oz). Today, the same coin can be had for under $2000 per coin. Despite the new wave of numismatic interest – and a massive surge of metal buyers in general – this coin has yet to approach its historical highs.

Today's Offer
We’re excited to showcase a limited quantity of MS64 $10 Indian Eagles – and an intriguing two-coin set offer:
  • $1,949 each 
  • Or buy 2 and we’ll send you a two-date set containing both a 1926 and 1932 issue. These two-coin sets are just $3,798.
The 1932 is a particularly interesting date, as it’s the last year before FDR’s gold recall. As mentioned earlier, 1933 $10 Indians are wildly scarce – and thus 1932 is the last affordable date. 

If you’re already a $20 Saint collector – or any numismatist who appreciates both rarity and beauty – these $10 Indians represent an outstanding value. It’s hard to find a better combination of scarcity, attractive pricing, high grade, and fascinating historical significance.

Take advantage of this special $10 Indian offering and add something unique to your collection. Call us at 800-831-0007, or email
*Prices subject to change based on market fluctuation and product availability. Prices reflected are for cash, check, or bank wire. Free shipping, handling, and insurance are available for all quantities ordered. Offer expires Friday, May 21st, 2021, or while supplies last.