The incuse design that appeared on the Indian $2.50 and $5.00 gold pieces was the brainchild of Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow. Bigelow, who was a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, was active on the board of the Boston Fine Arts Museum and was in expert in Asian art. He had admired the incuse style of ancient Egyptian art and believed that it would be attractive and durable on a U.S. coin. President Roosevelt had considered using a miniature version of the striding figure from the St. Gaudens $20 gold coin on the $2.50 and $5.00 gold coins, but when Bigelow suggested the incuse design, the president became an immediate supporter of the idea.
Bigelow commissioned artist, Bella Lyon Pratt to design the two coins. Pratt’s design featured the first faithful rendition of an American Indian on the obverse of the coin and a very of St. Gaudens’ standing eagle on the reverse. Pratt, who had formerly, studied under St. Gaudens, included that eagle in his design as a tribute to the great artist’s earlier work on the $10.00 gold piece.
The Indian $2.50 gold piece made its début in the fall of 1908 to mixed reviews. One critic thought that the Indian chief looked tired and sick. He also complained the eagle on the reverse was not an American bald eagle but a European gold eagle. He even stated that the recessed areas of the coin would become the carrier of dangerous diseases. There were also complaints that the new quarter eagles and half eagles varied in thickness relative to the old Liberty head coins. This made the new coins harder to count based upon the height of the stacks of coins. The mint acknowledged this problem and made corrections.
The new coins did not fare as well in circulation as had been expected. The fields, which were the highest part of the coin and not protected by a rim, were very prone to scraps and scratches. This caused the coins to become unattractive in circulation and has made it harder for modern collectors to find high grade Mint State pieces.
The 1925-D quarter shown about is a very strong MS-65 graded example it has only some minor tick marks in the fields and strong luster. Although the 1925 Denver mint is among the easiest coins of this type to find in high grade, this example is of exceptional quality.