user_98698's Blog

13 Jul 2020

The Indian Head Cent

Coins-United States | user_98698

The Indian Head Cent is first minted in 1859 following the short mintage of flying eagles and the last one was minted in 1909. The obverse of the coin shows an image of Liberty wearing a traditional Indian headdress, this gave the cent its name. The previous cent, the flying eagle, was difficult to mint and that was the main reason for switching to this easier to mint coin. Due to the strength of the copper-nickel blanks the coins could break due to the stress held within the blanks. However, this coin still presented many challenges and forced the designs to make early changes to the coin. This coin was one of the early introductions of a copper-nickel coin instead of the previous large cents that were made fully from copper. Technically the Flying Eagle is the first design of the Indian Head Cent, but many numismatics consider them to be two separate coins. As mentioned before, the obverse of the coin shows Liberty, while the reverse of the coins depicts a laurel wreath with “One Cent” in the center of it.

The designer of this coin is James Barton Longacre. Longacre was a very famous designer and engraver during the time he designed the Indian Head Cent. He also designed the Shield Nickel and Flying Eagle Cent. He was the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States in 1844 until his death in 1869. (He ran away to Philadelphia when he was 12). In Philadelphia he began an apprenticeship at a bookstore until his artistic talent was revealed and began an apprenticeship in Engraving There are some rumors that the image of Liberty was actually associated with his daughter Sarah (This is not confirmed but there are very striking similarities).

Official mintage of this coin began in 1859 but due to issues while striking the copper-nickel composition blank the Laurel Wreath was replaced by an Oak Wreath with a shield on top of it one year later. This continued until in 1864 the mint decided to change to a bronze alloy that was softer than the copper-nickel combination. The design of this coin took well to the new bronze blanks, due to this fact the mint decided to keep the bronze alloy all the way to the end of the mintage of the Indian Head Cents in 1909 before the Lincoln Cent was introduced.

Fun-Fact: During the last two years of mintage of the Indian Head Cent the first of the Branch-Mints opened up in San Francisco. Due to this the Indian Heads cents that are dated with the mintage letter S are more in demand and have a higher price tag on them.



Level 6

Nice blog. I have to agree with Longstrider and I.R. Bama, I have never heard of the Flying Eagle cent referred to as the first Indian Head cent.


Level 6

Very nice blog. Full of facts. I too have never heard of the Flying Eagle cent referred to as the first Indian Head. Could you source that as I would like to read it? Thanks well done.


Level 7

I like them alot. I try to find the ones that say liberty on top of the forehead. I like The others also thanks for The information and your sharing it.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

The very first coin I ever bought was an Indian cent. Way back when I was about 8 or 9. Now they are pricy but I'm determined to complete a full set I'd enjoy hearing more about why the flying eagle was technically considered the first design of the Indian cent. I had not ever heard that and would love to learn more about that...


Level 5

Have a few regular Indian cents. Never got into seriously collecting them. They are beautiful coins though. Nice information.

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