This new type represents a departure from all precedents in United States coinage. Its design features no raised edge, and the main devices and legends are in sunken relief below the surface of the coin.
Boston sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt was the designer of this and the similar half eagle piece. A pupil of the famous Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Pratt based his “standing eagle” motif on the reverse of his teacher’s gold ten-dollar coin of 1907. (That eagle was itself derived from the reverse of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 unofficial inaugural medal, designed by Saint-Gaudens and engraved by Adolph A.Weinman, who would later create the Liberty Walking half dollar. The general style had antecedents in coins of the ancient world.)
Among the public, there was some concern that the recessed design of Pratt’s quarter eagle would collect germs—an unfounded fear. The artistry of the design was condemned loudly by some numismatists. Few people were interested in saving the coin for their collections. The result is a series with relatively few examples surviving in higher grades. Any initial disfavor has mellowed with time; today Pratt’s design is recognized as part of the early 20th-century renaissance of American coinage.