In the past few years, Indian Head quarter eagles have been very successfully promoted. A not-as-well-known but equally successful promotion has doubled the price of common date MS65 Indian Head half eagles in the past year. I have recently witnessed an interesting trend that I think might foretell the next price run-up in the 20th century gold coin market. A few dealers are starting to quietly accumulate better date Indian Head eagles, especially issues such as the 1908-D With Motto, 1909-D, 1909-S, 1912-S, 1914-S and 1915-S. The desired grade range for these coins is MS63 to MS65 with most of the activity seen in the MS64 range as this is a “sweet spot” from the standpoint of price (most MS65’s are expensive) and rarity (many of these dates are nearly impossible to find in Gem).
It makes sense to me for a lot of reasons that this series is due for a promotion. The coins are beautiful (I personally like the design even better than the St. Gaudens double eagle), the set is relatively short (only thirty-six coins including the 1907 Wire Edge and Rolled Edge varieties) and, unlike Saints, it can realistically be completed. Most importantly, this series is a sort of final frontier in 20th century gold as it is really the only denomination left that hasn’t been promoted and seen significant price run-ups.
This is a great set for a collector to assemble but it takes deep pockets, especially in MS64 and higher grades. How can the collector of more modest means take advantage of what could become an interesting market play in the coming years? I would suggest purchasing a few slightly better dates in MS64 or MS65. There are only two truly common issues in this series: the 1926 and the 1932. They are currently valued in the $2250-2500 range in MS64 and around $5000-5250 in MS65. I’d suggest the collector look for marginally scarcer dates such as a 1908 With Motto, 1912, 1913, 1914 or 1914-D. These currently sell for modest premiums in MS64 and MS65 despite the fact that they are many times rarer than the 1926 or 1932.
A few buying tips: avoid coins with heavily spotted surfaces as they are hard to sell (a few small, unobtrusive spots are OK), be careful for coins with deep, detracting marks (especially on the face of Liberty) and watch out for coins with funky color (yes, they are even in NGC and PCGS holders).