Is It Legal to Own a 1933 Indian Head Gold Eagle Coin?

Only 37 coins remain from a minting of 312,000 1933 Indian head gold eagles. What makes it so special, and what’s it worth?

Yes, the three dozen 1933 Indian head gold eagle coins known to exist are legal to own, but these rare coins are very expensive to acquire.

“With most 1933 gold coins ($20 gold pieces) currently classified by the US Government as illegal to own, a 1933 $10 Indian offers a rare opportunity to acquire a piece from this year that will not send you to a courtroom. This coin has a fascinating story of how something with a mintage of around 300,000 coins turned out to have less than 50 pieces known in all grades!”

Sarah Miller, Director of Numismatics, New York Office of Heritage Auctions

According to NCG: “Although 1933 Double Eagles have been declared illegal to own in most cases, the legality of 1933 Eagles has never been questioned.” (1) 

What is a $10 Indian Head gold Eagle coin?

The Indian Head Eagle was a $10 gold piece, or “Eagle,” struck by the United States Mint continuously from 1907 until 1916, and then irregularly until 1933. The obverse and reverse were designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, originally commissioned for use on other denominations. (2)

1933 was the last year that these coins were created, as the United States was no longer on the gold standard after this terminal year of the series.

How rare is the 1933 $10 Indian?

The 1933 $10 Indian generates significant interest when it appears at auction, due to its scarcity and storied history. PCGS and NGC have certified a combined 37 pieces, with the finest graded PCGS MS65+ and NGC MS 66. (3)

As NGC said, “Virtually the entire mintage was melted before leaving government hands. Owning an example of this date is certainly one of the highlights of any numismatic collection and a feat precious few collectors can ever hope to accomplish.” (4)

While a large quantity were originally produced, very few of these coins survived the mass melting of most of the mintage. Only a small handful are available for collectors today.

Watch this video from 2015 auction where the 1933 Indian head sold for $587,500.00.

1933 Indian head gold $10 coin for sale in 2020 auction.
Heritage Auction offers a scarce 1933 $10 Indian, graded NGC MS65, in the April 2020 Central States sale. Similar examples have sold for over $300,000 in the past.

Why is the $10 gold Eagle called the Indian head?

“At [President] Roosevelt’s urging, Saint-Gaudens added a fictional Native American war bonnet to Liberty. Hence the name “Indian Head Eagle” is usually, but inaccurately, applied to this series of coins. The reverse featured a proud eagle astride a bundle of arrows, very similar to the Inaugural medal of 1905.” (5)

What is the history of 1933 gold coins?

The minting of all gold coins ended suddenly with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Gold Order of 1933. Intended to thwart hoarders, this directive prohibited private ownership of gold coins and bullion. Gold owners were required to turn in their gold to the government in exchange for other forms of currency. Collectors were permitted to keep gold coinage of numismatic significance, however.

Only a few dozen of the 312,500 Indian Head Eagles dated 1933 were released into circulation before the Order went into effect and thus escaped destruction. The extreme rarity of the 1933 has catapulted it to legendary status. (5)

What did the 1933 Executive Order 6102 say?

Executive Order 6102 is a United States Presidential executive order signed on April 5, 1933, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt “forbidding the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States”. (6)

What’s the difference between a 1933 Double Eagle and a 1933 Indian Eagle?

The difference in face value is only $10, but a 1933 Double Eagle is even rarer than a 1933 Indian head. 

The 1933 $20 gold piece, or Double Eagle, was struck around the same time as the order to melt US gold coins. None were officially released into circulation. Nearly all examples were melted, yet a few pieces survived. Today, only one of these coins has been declared as legal to own by the US Mint, which sold in 2002 to an anonymous private collector at auction for over $7,000,000. This particular example was previously owned by King Farouk, and Egyptian king who was an avid coin collector.

The Farouk example gained legal status, yet other examples that have been discovered since that original coin have been declared illegal to own and have even, in some cases, been seized by government agencies. The US Government has retained some examples of real 1933 $20 gold pieces that are occasionally shown for display but cannot be privately owned, and the mystique and intrigue surrounding this rare date continues.

How much is a 1933 $10 Indian gold coin worth?

The value of a 1933 $10 Eagle will vary depending on the coin’s condition as graded on the 1 to 70 scale use by numismatists. However, all known examples are in Mint State condition, or grades 60 and above, as they were typically set aside shortly after leaving the Mint. The values today range from around $250,000 to $750,000.

Most expensive 1933 Indian head sales by Heritage Auctions:

  1. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $822,500.00 in 2015 
  2. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $587,500.00 in 2015 
  3. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $552,000.00 in 2008 
  4. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $546,250.00 in 2007 
  5. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $517,500.00 in 2005 
  6. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $488,750.00 in 2009 
  7. 1933 $10 MS65 PCGS sold for $460,000.00 in 2009 
  8. 1933 $10 MS64+ PCGS sold for $402,500.00 in 2012 
  9. 1933 $10 MS65 NGC sold for $359,375.00 in 2011 
  10. 1933 $10 MS64 NGC sold for $316,250.00 in 2007 

1933 Indian head gold $10 coin for sale in 2020 auction.
Heritage Auction offers a scarce 1933 $10 Indian, graded NGC MS65, in the April 2020 Central States sale. Similar examples have sold for over $300,000 in the past.

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Sources

  1. https://www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/indian-head-10-pscid-68/1933-10-ms-coinid-18885
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Head_eagle
  3. https://indianheadeagle.com/1933-indian-head-eagle/ 
  4. https://www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/indian-head-10-pscid-68/1933-10-ms-coinid-18885
  5. https://www.us-coin-values-advisor.com/Indian-Head-Eagles.html
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_6102

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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