Estimated grade. SAINT-GAUDENS INDIAN HEAD ROLLED EDGE.
David Akers (1975/88): Description: Obverse. Similar to J-1774 but with a prominent, broad border. Reverse. Similar to J-1774 except for the same broad border that is on the obverse.
Comments: After the original Saint-Gaudens design was found to be impractical, Barber modified the model and the result was J-1775, the so-called "rolled edge" variety. A large quantity was struck, ostensibly intended for circulation, but the resulting coins were still unsatisfactory. Don Taxay, in his book The U.S. Mint and Coinage, pages 316-7, quotes a letter dated September 25, 1907 from Superintendent of the Mint John H. Landis to Director of the Mint Frank Leach. With the letter, Landis enclosed two specimens of the new eagle design. One was a rolled edge, J-1775, and the other was an example of the design that eventually became the regular issue. Landis stated, "You will notice that the eagle from the last model (regular issue) is a great improvement over those of the first model (J-1775). The latter are indefinite in detail and outline, not being at all sharp and look like imperfect coins or coins that have been sweated, while the former is sharp in outline, the detail shows up well, the border is broad and prominent and the coins will stack perfectly." (If one looks closely at the photo on page 60, the lack of detail that Landis mentions is obvious, and this lack of sharpness is evident on all known specimens of J-1775.)
The number of pieces of J-1775 that were struck has long been thought to be 20,000 with 19,958 of them subsequently melted. However, the same September 25th letter from Landis to Leach indicates otherwise, since in it Landis states that "We have on hand $315,000 of the first model (J-1775), struck on the coining press, and $500, struck on the medal press." The total of $315,000 actually translates to 31,500 coins rather than 20,000. Alas, it is possible that the $500 struck on the medal press, which amounts to 50 coins, were proofs.
In his letter to Leach, Landis continues by saying, "If this last model meets with your approval, I would strongly urge upon you the expediency of immediately replacing the $315,000, now on hand, of the first model with eagles of the last model. I think we will be severely criticized, and certainly deserve to be, if the eagles already struck should be allowed to go into circulation."
Virtually all of the eagles "of the first model" (J-1775) were melted as Landis suggested, and according to a letter from Henry Chapman to John Garrett in February, 1908, "only 50 were kept." There are two pieces in the Smithsonian Institution, one in the Johns Hopkins University collection, and one is owned by Paramount International Coin Corporation. The others are in various collections, estates, and dealers' inventories.
In addition to the 40-50 survivors of the 31,500 minted for circulation, there are at least two proofs remaining of the 50 (?) originally struck. One of these is in the Smithsonian Institution and the other is owned by a prominent Texas collector who purchased it from the 1972 ANA auction for $11,600.