At the behest of new president Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens began to work on new designs for American coinage. The Indian Head is now considered one of his most iconic designs. Roosevelt felt strongly that Liberty’s initial laurel crown be replaced by a fully feather Indian war bonnet. Because these coins were low relief, it was possible to begin minting these coins much more quickly than Saint Gaudens high relief Double Eagle.
Bowing to public pressure, Congress ordered the motto IN GOD WE TRUST be placed on the coin, as mandated by the Act of March 3, 1865. The motto was added to the reverse, above the eagle’s left shoulder.
Beginning in 1912, the number of stars on the edge of the coin was increased from 46 to 48, reflecting the addition of New Mexico and Arizona as new states to the Union. An additional, extremely minor modification was made to the location of the U in UNUM.
Considered one of the best-looking coins ever to leave an American Mint, Indian Head Eagles are widely collected. Many build complete date and mintmark sets, lacking only the prohibitively rare (and expensive) 1933 issue.
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