1909-O Indian Head $5 Half Eagle

In 1908, the Indian Head theme of Bela Lyon Pratt was introduced on the $2.50 quarter eagle and $5.00 half eagle. The design was unique in American numismatics in that the coin features were incuse, (i.e. sunken) into the surface of the coin, rather than elevated above, as were all other United States coins.(1)

The New Orleans Mint was the last of the three southern branch mints established in 1838 to remain in service. Coining operations were halted there during the first year of the Civil War in 1861, but restarted in 1879. Production continued until April 1, 1909, when coinage was suspended by edict of the federal government. At the time, there was some expectation the New Orleans Mint might reopen, but that never happened.(2)

Thus, it was in March 1909 when the last United States coins bearing the “O” mintmark were struck.

There were 34,200 half eagles produced at New Orleans in 1909, nearly all of which were released into circulation. These are the only representatives of the Indian Head half eagle series to originate from the storied southern mint.(3)

The 1909 New Orleans mintage was the lowest of any of the Indian Head half eagle issues of 1908-1929. This is in sharp contrast to the 3.5 million pieces churned out by the Denver Mint the same year.

It remains an unsolved mystery as to why the New Orleans employees struck half eagles in 1909.(4) These were the first coins of the $5.00 denomination coming from there since 1894.

SPECULATION: Perhaps Mint personnel knew in advance coining operations were soon coming to an end and decided to give the historic facility a final hurrah by striking a token quantity of 1909-O half eagles.

With over 1400 surviving examples,(5) the 1909-O Indian Head half eagle is not at all near the rarest coin included the Key Date List of recommendations. However, it is in high demand because it doubles as a showstopper date in the Indian Head half eagle series because of its relative scarcity and the only one of its type struck at the New Orleans Mint.(6)

There are two die varieties known for the 1909-O:(7)

  • Variety I: The mintmark is weakly impressed and it shows doubling on its left side.
  • Variety II: The mintmark is more sharply punched and it shows no signs of doubling. This is the scarcer of the two varieties.

Most price guides do not specify estimated values by variety, but savvy buyers are very much aware of the mintmark distinction.

The value trend charts for the 1909-O demonstrate its sustained popularity with collectors.

More than a century later, the final gold coin of the New Orleans Mint has earned everlasting fame in the eyes of numismatists. Could it be that is what they at the Mint in 1909 had in mind when they fired up the coining press one last time?

Estimated survivors in all grades: 1416
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 4.8
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1909-O Indian Head Half Eagle photos Value trends of rare 1909-O Indian Head half eagle
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1. Yeoman, R.S. and Garrett, Jeff, et al.  A Guide Book of United States Coins, 75th ed. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, 2021.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1909-O $5.  Jan 2011 Auction.

3. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1909-O Indian Half Eagle.  Jun 2014 Auction.

4. Heritage Auctions.  1909-O $5.  Nov 2013 Auction.

5. PCGS.  1909-O $5 (Regular Strike).

6. Stack's Bowers Galleries.  1909-O Indian Half Eagle.  Aug 2022 Auction.

7. PCGS.  1909-O $5 (Regular Strike).

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.