How Much Are Native American Coins Worth?
The North American Origin of Old Native American Coins and Currency
As residents of North America from before the founding of the United States of American, Native Americans have long been honored on United States coins.
Since the 18th century, when the U.S. began striking gold coins for everyday commerce, Native American figures, history and culture have been featured on U.S. currency and these representations and themes remain some of the most popular designs in U.S. history.
History of Native American Coins
The first Native American coin struck - one of the most popular Native American-themed coins to this day - was the Indian Head penny, released into circulation in 1859. The “Indian” featured on the coin is a representation of Lady Liberty wearing a Native American feathered headdress. The penny, designed by James B. Longacre, remained in circulation until 1909 when the Lincoln cent replaced it. Millions of Indian Head pennies were struck and many have survived in decent condition. It is still possible to buy a gently worn, Indian Head penny for less than $5.
In 1913, the Buffalo or Indian Head nickel, designed by James Earle Fraser, entered circulation. The Native American featured on the obverse was a combination features from sketches by Fraser of three Native American men. The buffalo on the revers is actually a bison, modeled after Black Diamond, a bison residing in the New York Central Park Zoo. The last Buffalo nickel was struck in 1938, the year the first Jefferson nickel was released. The popularity of the Buffalo (Indian Head) nickel inspired the U.S. Mint to reinvent the famous Native American coin’s design and place it on an American Buffalo 24-karat gold coin with a $50 face value.
From 1908 to 1929 Indian Head type $2.50 and $5 gold coins were minted and from 1907 through 1933, the $10 Indian Head type coin was struck. The $10 Indian Head features Lady Liberty wearing a Native American war bonnet.
Most Valuable Native American Coins
- One of the most valuable Native American coins is the 1854 O $3 Gold Indian MS-62N selling for $100,654.
- Another valuable piece is the 1909 O $5 Gold Half Eagle MS-60N currently selling for $45,501.
- The 1852 O Type 1 Double Eagle AU-58N sells for $27,732.
- The 1850 O Type 1 Double Eagle AU-53 sells for $26,887.
Modern Native American Coins
In 2000, the United States Mint released the Sacagawea gold dollar, featuring an image of the Shoshone woman carrying her infant son, Jean Baptiste.
In 2007, president George W. Bush signed the Native American $1 Coin Act instructing the U.S. Mint to begin producing coins that celebrate Native Americans’ contributions to American history.
In 2009, the mint released the Native American dollar coin which features a variety of images of Native American people, history and culture. The obverse of all these coins feature Sacagewea with the inscriptions LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST. The reverse features a new design each year honoring important contributions of Indian tribes or individual Native Americans with the inscriptions $1 and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The Native American dollar coin series was issued to run concurrently with the remaining years of the Presidential dollar series.
The coins are selected by the Secretary of the Treasury with input from the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Congressional Native American Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Congress of American Indians and public review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The golden Native American $1 Coins have a distinctive edge and feature edge-lettering of the year, mint mark and E PLURIBUS UNUM.
The Native American dollar coin program is set to run through at least 2016.