Here's the story:
1929 $5 Indian Head Gold Piece
When President Theodore Roosevelt called for a new $5 gold coin design in 1908, few imagined the daring, innovative masterpiece that designer Bela Lyon Pratt would ultimately produce. Unlike every other U.S. coin design, Pratt's “Indian Head” is incuse--meaning that the sculpted Indian is sunken into the surface of the coin, rather than being raised above it. Indian Head $5 gold pieces were minted annually from 1908 to 1915, when production was suspended for over a decade. When it was finally resumed in 1929, no one expected that this coin would be the last $5 gold coin ever issued for circulation by the U.S. Government. But in October 1929, the unthinkable happened. The Stock Market crashed, plunging the U.S. economy into a deep depression. Production of $5 gold coins ceased, never to resume, making the 1929 $5 Gold Indian one of the rarest and most desirable coins of its kind.
Now, you can reserve your own copy of the 1929 $5 Gold Indian. It's the rare 1929 $5 Indian Head gold piece recreated as a privately minted 24 KT Pure Gold Plated Proof. Designer Bela Lyon Pratt's portrait of a strong Indian brave in war bonnet is incused into the gleaming obverse, along with 13 stars and the motto LIBERTY. On the reverse, the gleaming majestic eagle grasps an olive branch, symbolizing peace, against a frosted field.
1) A private company is making this "collectible" item, not the US government.
2) It's a copy of a real 1929 coin, not something someone invented recently to stereotype Indians.
3) The Plains chief on the original coin is stereotypical, but so are a million other images of Plains chiefs in our society. I don't consider this "offensive" unless someone is using the chief to misrepresent other Indians, which isn't the case here.
What they're saying on Racialicious
Some comments from Racialicious:
Moreover, Americans have frequently used the Indian as a symbol of liberty throughout the country's history. This symbolism became increasingly wrongheaded and ironic as time went on, since Americans increasingly denied Indians their freedom. But originally Indians were freer than their Euro-American counterparts, so the symbolism has some validity.
Indian head = scalping?
I wonder if this commenter would feel better if the coin were made of silver, nickel, or copper. Would that be less of an anti-Indian statement? I don't see how. You could turn the complaint around and say, "The white man gets gold while the Indian gets copper...how unfair is that?"
Sure, the original coin's image is stereotypical. It also looks a bit crude. The buffalo nickel and Sacagawea dollar have superior designs. If the US were going to reissue the $5 Indian Head coin, I'd say no.
But if a private collector wants to buy a copy from a private company, is it really worth discussing? I don't think so. You may think I get outraged about every little Native stereotype, but this replica of a coin doesn't bother me.
For more on the subject, see Buffalo Dollars Benefit NMAI and The Indian Head Penny.
P.S. See my comments on the original thread if you're interested.