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United States Indian Head Cents

By Edited Oct 21, 2016 5 6

1859 United States Indian Head Cent

United States Indian Head Cents are a favorite among collectors for a number of reasons. The extensive run has 50 years of numismatic history behind it and many varieties and die errors to keep even the die hard numismatist busy for years.

Starting out as a beginner, or expanding one's collecting interests into Indian Head cents, is something a collector will find both rewarding and financially sound. The Indian Head series has achieved a great reputation for values appreciating and sustaining their net worth. Investors have joined the fray and are now purchasing high grade examples for appreciation potential.

Beginning in the year 1859 in the United States Indian Head Cents were first minted. Some 36,000,000 were coined and issued to the general public for circulation. Lady Liberty, shown on the obverse wearing a typical Indian head dress, was not an actual Indian.

The reverse of the coin during this first year of issue was a laurel wreath, with the words One Cent within the center. This lasted only one year and in 1860 the reverse was changed to an oak wreath, with a small shield above the words One Cent.

Designed by James B Longacre with his last initial gracing a famous variety of this coin in 1864. Examples were struck with the letter L on Liberty's neck behind the ribbon.

The weight originally used for this coin was 4.67 grams, .880 of it was pure copper and .120 nickel. Diameter came in at 19 millimeters with a plain edge. Indian Head cents produced for the entire run were struck at the Philadelphia mint. Proofs were struck in minimum quantities for collectors and all are rare today.

In 1864 the composition of the cent was changed. The weight was reduced to 3.11 grams. .950 was copper and 0.50 was tin, creating a bronze coin with the same diameter as its predecessor, but much thinner. Circulation strikes were all from the Philadelphia mint and now proofs were being struck in California at the San Francisco mint. 

1877 United States Indian Head Cent

Key dates for the series are the 1877, with a very low mintage, and the 1909-s, which also has a very low mintage and holds the spot as the last Indian Head coin minted. Later in the year 1909 the Lincoln cent was introduced.

Some interesting die errors were produced throughout the series. One of the more collected varieties is the 1869 over 9 which had a numeral 9 re-cut over the first 9 and plainly shows on the resulting coins struck with this die. There is also an 1888 over 7 and the 1873 has both closed three and open three varieties. A double die at the date exists for the year 1894, and there is a die from 1897 where the numeral 1 was somehow impressed upside down and protrudes from Liberty's neck.

1897 United States Indian Head Cent With 1 In Neck

All of these, and many more minor varieties, can carry an extra premium from die collectors.

The 1909-S and the 1908-S are two coins that collectors show a special interest in, as these are the only two years with mint marks, as well as both being relatively short mintages. They are rapidly disappearing from the market and prices for these two coins have steadily risen in recent times.

1909-S United States Indian Head Cent
United States Indian Head Cents have been avidly collected since their inception and the collector base continues to grow. Whether you're a novice collector, or a well tuned numismatist, the world of IH collecting will keep you busy for years.
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Comments

Nov 18, 2010 3:54pm
Lynsuz
Good article, lots of detail and nice pics. (^_^)b
Nov 18, 2010 5:40pm
dreamaker
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for stopping by.
Nov 20, 2010 5:21pm
aidenofthetower
My mom was one of those crazy ladies that dug up her entire yard for flowers. We were digging one day getting ready to add a new section and she found an Indian head penny. Through that and her other interests I have a great interest in coin collecting, but not much knowledge and a lot of fear. :-P Great article though and beautiful pictures. Are they yours?
Nov 21, 2010 12:32am
dreamaker
I only wish for examples like these. They are from an archive of coins I've collected pictures of over the years. Prime examples of all US coins was an early article I wrote years ago. I can answer any coin questions you may have as I've been collecting for over 40 years.
Nov 22, 2010 10:30am
Ernie
Great article. The Indian Head penny is one of my favorite coins.
Nov 22, 2010 4:19pm
dreamaker
Thanks Ernie, and I have a few thousand of them, so I guess I like it too.
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