Indian Head Penny

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Indian Head Penny For Sale

The Indian Head Penny was minted from 1859 to 1909. Its design has a left-facing female figure wearing a Native American headdress, and the reverse shows the value of the coin and a wreath. The Indian Head Cent was designed by the same designer of the Flying Eagle cent, which was discontinued due to issued with its design and minting.

The popularity that comes with the Indian Head Cent nowadays is its age and the rarity of some of the versions of this coin. One of the rare versions are the 1873 Double Liberty version. This version was minted with the word "liberty" duplicated on the headdress. Another rare version is the 1877 Indian Head Penny. Although the coin has value from its age and rarity, it does not have any value from its composition as it is made of 88% copper and 12% nickel. When it comes to buying the Indian Head Cent there are multiple ways to go about it. Some collectors like to buy rolls of them, which contain 50 coins, individual versions, or bundles of certain years. 

Indian Head Penny Value and Varieties

Most Indian Head Pennies are relatively affordable with most dates and mint marks in circulated condition running $20 or less per coin. However, as with any series there are key dates. Some of the most notable key dates are:

  • 1869 9/9 (Doubled "9") 
  • 1873 Double Liberty ("LIBERTY" is doubled on the headdress)
  • 1877
  • 1888 8/7 ( "7" is underneath the last "8" in the date)
  • 1909 S

Indian Head Penny Mintages and Values

The value of Indian Head Pennies, minted from 1859 to 1909, can vary significantly based on their year, condition, and any unique variations. Here's a general overview of how their values can range:

Common Dates (1880-1908):

  • Circulated Conditions: Common dates in circulated condition typically range from $1 to $10.
  • Uncirculated Conditions: Prices can range from $30 to several hundred dollars for coins in MS-63 and higher grades, with the price increasing significantly for coins in even higher grades.

Key Dates and Varieties:

  • 1877: One of the key dates for the series, with circulated examples often valued at $750 to $1,000 and up. Uncirculated examples can fetch $3,000 to $4,000 or more, depending on the grade.
  • 1909-S: Another key date, with circulated coins valued around $400 to $500 and uncirculated examples reaching $1,000 to $2,000 or more.
  • 1864-L (with L on Ribbon): Circulated examples can be worth $50 to $100, while uncirculated grades might fetch $200 to $500+.
  • 1872: This year can bring $100+ in circulated conditions and significantly more in higher grades.

Condition Matters:

The condition (or grade) of the coin plays a significant role in its value. Coins graded by reputable services like PCGS or NGC can command higher prices, especially in uncirculated conditions. "Full Liberty" visible in the headband of the Indian's headdress is a sign of a well-preserved coin and can increase value.

Special Varieties:

Certain varieties, such as doubled dies or those with unique mint errors, can be particularly valuable, often reaching into the thousands depending on the rarity and condition.

Learn more about Indian Head Penny Mintage >

Indian Head Cent Varieties

1859 Indian Head: copper-nickel Laurel wreath reverse design

Within the years this coin was in circulation, there were three different varieties of the Indian Head Cent. The first variety can be categorized as the 1859 copper-nickel Laurel wreath reverse design. This was America’s introduction to the Indian Head Cent, and a series that would grow to become iconic in American numismatic history. The obverse of the coin displays a bust of Lady Liberty facing towards the left, adorning a Native American headdress. The reverse features a laurel wreath, which is actually different from the well known wreath of wheat design that was used in later years of the Indian Head. The coin has a diameter of 19 millimeters and a weight of 4.67 grams, adhering to the standard specifications for one cent coins of that era. James Longacre actually incorporated a signature of sorts on the coin, his initials J.B.L. on the ribbon of the headdress of Lady Liberty. As the first year of issue of the Indian Head Cent, this coin is unique in its design with multiple features of the coin being changed just one year later, and never reverting back to the original. Collectors often seek out this year in particular as a key date, and a valuable piece of their collections. 

1860-1864 Indian Head: copper-nickel oak wreath with shield design

The second variety of the Indian Head Cent is known as the copper-nickel oak wreath with shield design, spanning from 1860 to 1864. This variety of the Indian Head portrayed the new altered design, and were the last years that this series of coins were minted with the 88% copper and 12% nickel metal composition. The size and weight of this variety stays consistent with the 1859 variety, as well as James Longacre’s initials on the headdress. The oak wreath with shield design represents a transition from the Laurel wreath reverse and is a testament to the ever evolving nature of the Indian Head Cent series. The addition of the shield symbolizes the protective demeanor of the United States during a time of internal and external challenges. Having insight on the meaning behind the decision to change the design of the Indian Head Cent provides a sense of sentimental value, as well as adding historical value to the series.

The bronze Indian Head Penny

The third and final variety of the esteemed Indian Head Cent is categorized as the bronze Indian Head. These coins were minted from the year 1864, all the way up until 1909, the last year of issue in the series. Since the bronze Indian Head began its reign in circulation around halfway through the year in 1864, both the copper-nickel oak wreath with shield variety and the bronze Indian Head variety were minted and in circulation throughout the year of 1864. The metal composition was changed to bronze during this time, and actually the coin itself was modified as well. The thickness of the coin was reduced greatly, and with that the weight of the coin decreased. The diameter of the new variety was still 19 millimeters, but the weight was now 3.11 grams, and James Longacre’s initials continue to be featured on the headdress throughout the entire series.

The mintages of the bronze Indian Head vary throughout the years of 1864 to 1909, some years experienced higher mintage numbers, while other years were quite different, and saw more limited mintages. This specifically is one of the reasons that each year of the Indian Head Cent has its own unique value and rarity, something that many different collectors adore about these coins. You will find all sorts of rare coin hobbyists seeking out specific years of Indian Heads, wanting to find the ones they’ve been missing to finally complete a full set, or just collect them in bunches and pick out their favorite ones. The 1877 and 1909-S Indian Heads stand out in particular. The 1877 being the second lowest mintage in the series behind the 1909-S, but actually harder to find today especially in better condition due to the fact that there were much less people collecting coins in 1877 compared to 1909.


How do the values of Indian Head Pennies compare between the copper-nickel and bronze varieties?

The values of Indian Head Pennies can significantly differ between the copper-nickel (1859-1864) and bronze (1864-1909) varieties, largely due to the rarity, historical context, and collector demand for specific issues within each composition category. Generally, the copper-nickel varieties, being the earliest issues of the series and having a distinctive composition, hold a special allure for collectors, especially the 1859 issue with its unique laurel wreath reverse. These early issues in high grades can command substantial premiums. However, the bronze varieties include some of the series' most sought-after dates, such as the 1877 and 1909-S, which are valued not just for their composition but for their rarity and the historical context of their minting. In essence, while copper-nickel pennies are prized for their place in the series' inception, the bronze pennies contain the key dates most coveted by collectors, often resulting in higher values for specific bronze issues compared to their copper-nickel counterparts.

What specific factors contribute to the high value of the 1877 and 1909-S Indian Head Pennies?

The high value of the 1877 and 1909-S Indian Head Pennies is attributed to several factors beyond their low mintages. For the 1877 penny, its value is significantly enhanced by its status as one of the series' key dates, with an exceptionally low mintage of only about 852,500 coins. This year is particularly challenging to find in higher grades, making any well-preserved examples highly prized by collectors. The scarcity of the coin in circulation at the time of its release means few were saved in uncirculated condition, adding to its rarity and desirability. The 1909-S, on the other hand, not only has the lowest mintage of the series but also marks the end of the Indian Head Penny production, giving it historical significance. Its value is further compounded by the fact that coin collecting had become more popular by 1909, leading to a higher survival rate in higher grades compared to the 1877 issue. Both coins' values are a testament to their rarity, condition scarcity, and the historical context of their minting, making them crown jewels in any Indian Head Penny collection.

Are there any notable public collections or museums where enthusiasts can view rare Indian Head Pennies?

For enthusiasts interested in viewing rare Indian Head Pennies, several notable public collections and museums across the United States house impressive numismatic collections that include these coins. The Smithsonian Institution's National Numismatic Collection in Washington, D.C., is one of the premier destinations, offering a comprehensive overview of American coinage history, including rare Indian Head Pennies. Additionally, the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Colorado Springs features a wide array of numismatic exhibits, including Indian Head Pennies among its extensive coin collections. Regional museums and historical societies, especially those in areas with rich numismatic histories, may also have collections featuring Indian Head Pennies. These institutions often provide educational resources and exhibits that offer insights into the coins' historical context, production, and significance, making them invaluable resources for both seasoned collectors and those new to the hobby.

Indian Head Coins FAQs

Indian Head pennies were made of a copper-nickel alloy from 1859 to 1864. Specifically, the composition was 88% copper and 12% nickel. Starting in 1864, the composition of the Indian Head penny was changed to 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, commonly referred to as bronze.
The first small cent issued by the U.S. Mint after the large cent was the "Flying Eagle" cent. It was introduced in 1856 and minted until 1858. The Flying Eagle cent was the first of the small-sized pennies and was followed by the Indian Head cent in 1859.

Indian Head Pennies are a series of U.S. one-cent coins that were minted from 1859 to 1909. They feature the image of Lady Liberty wearing a Native American headdress on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse.

The Indian Head Penny was designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the U.S. Mint at the time of the coin's introduction.

The coin is called an Indian Head Penny because the portrait of Liberty is adorned with a Native American headdress, which was intended to symbolize the nation's westward expansion. The design does not depict an actual Native American individual.

Key dates that are particularly sought after by collectors include 1877, one of the series' rarest dates, and 1909-S, the last year of the series with a notably low mintage.

The value of an Indian Head Penny can range from a few dollars for common, circulated coins to over $1,000 for rare dates in uncirculated condition. The 1877 and 1909-S pennies, especially in high grades, can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

To determine if your Indian Head Penny is valuable, examine its date, condition, and any potential varieties. Coins in better condition and those with key dates or rare varieties are typically more valuable. Consulting a coin grading guide or a professional numismatist can provide a more precise valuation.

The US Mint stopped making Indian Head Pennies in 1909 to introduce the Lincoln Wheat Penny, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The change was also part of a broader effort to update the coinage designs.

Yes, there are several rare varieties, including the 1869/9 overdate, the 1873 doubled LIBERTY, and the 1888 last 8 over 7 variety. These varieties can be significantly more valuable than standard issues.