Indian Head Penny Value and History

The Indian Head Penny Value

The Indian Head Penny replaced the short-lived Flying Eagle Cent in 1859, as it was difficult to get quality strikes of the intricate Flying Eagle design. The Indian Head Penny is the second instance of a small-format cent in American coinage, after the Large Cent was discontinued. The obverse design of the Indian Head Cent depicts a female figure wearing a Native American Indian headdress on the obverse.  Many believed this female figure was modeled after the daughter of the designer James B. Longacre, but Longacre later revealed it was based on the crouching Venus statue. The first issue of the Indian Head Penny featured a laurel wreath and the words “ONE CENT”, on the reverse, but subsequent issues were modified to have a shield intersecting the top of the wreath. In this article we will go over Indian Head Penny Value and History.




The classic Indian Head Cent is a favorite amongst American coin collectors, and is an established staple in the world of numismatics. Even after 100+ years, collectors actively seek out the Indian Head Cent to add to their collection. But what makes this cent remain so popular over a century after it was discontinued? Let’s dive into the facts around the Indian Head Penny’s mintage, composition, and most valuable varieties to understand why this cent is one of the most coveted coins in American history. 

Indian Head Penny Metal Composition and Design

The Indian Head Cent’s design is both striking and iconic. Designed by James B. Longacre, each plume is individually rendered on the woman’s headdress on the obverse, while every leaf in the laurel wreath on the reverse curls in its own way like real foliage. 

People often wonder: what are Indian Head Cents made of? The answer is not straightforward, as the coin’s composition changed throughout the years. Initially, the Indian Head Penny consisted of 88% copper and 12% nickel alloy. In 1864, the US Mint changed the composition to only 3.11 grams of 95% copper and 5% tin-zinc, also known as bronze. This was a cost-cutting measure after the US Mint noticed the popularity of light copper Civil War tokens that did not contain their full value in metal.   

The Indian Head Cent was minted from 1859-1909, which meant the series began just before and continued through the Civil War. The Civil War issues of this coin are extremely popular to collect as a tangible piece of American history.  However, for the last two years of issue for the series in 1908 and 1909, the Indian Head Cent was struck at the San Francisco Mint instead of the Philadelphia Mint. If you look closely under the wreath on the reverse of the coin you can see the “S” mint mark representing the San Francisco Mint.  These coins were struck for 50 years, from 1859 to 1909. In 1859, a healthy 36,400,000 coins were struck, and similar mintage numbers were seen throughout the series save for a few key dates.

Indian Head Penny Key Dates

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 Value and Mintage

Date Mintage Good Very Fine Extremely Fine Uncirculated
1859 Indian Head Penny Value 36,400,000 $15.00 $55.00 $110.00 $285.00
1860 Indian Head Penny Value 20,566,000 $10.00 $35.00 $70.00 $185.00
1861 Indian Head Penny Value 10,100,000 $25.00 $60.00 $110.00 $225.00
1862 Indian Head Penny Value 28,075,000 $10.00 $30.00 $50.00 $110.00
1863 Indian Head Penny Value 49,840,000 $10.00 $30.00 $50.00 $110.00
1864 Indian Head Penny Value 13,740,000 $20.00 $55.00 $100.00 $200.00
1865 Indian Head Penny Value 35,429,286 $15.00 $45.00 $45.00 $90.00
1866 Indian Head Penny Value 9,826,500 $50.00 $190.00 $190.00 $275.00
1867 Indian Head Penny 9,821,000 $50.00 $230.00 $230.00 $300.00
1868 Indian Head Penny 10,266,500 $40.00 $170.00 $170.00 $250.00
1869 Indian Head Penny 6,420,000 $85.00 $335.00 $445.00 $600.00
1870 Indian Head Penny 5,275,000 $55.00 $280.00 $375.00 $500.00
1871 Indian Head Penny 3,929,500 $70.00 $350.00 $475.00 $550.00
1872 Indian Head Penny 4,042,000 $90.00 $500.00 $500.00 $785.00
1873 Indian Head Penny 11,676,500 $25.00 $185.00 $185.00 $235.00
1874 Indian Head Penny 14,187,500 $20.00 $65.00 $100.00 $225.00
1875 Indian Head Penny 13,528,000 $20.00 $75.00 $120.00 $235.00
1876 Indian Head Penny 7,944,000 $35.00 $135.00 $225.00 $300.00
1877 Indian Head Penny 852,500 $900.00 $2,000.00 $2,500.00 $3,800.00
1878 Indian Head Penny 5,797,500 $35.00 $110.00 $200.00 $325.00
1879 Indian Head Penny 16,228,000 $8.00 $40.00 $70.00 $90.00
1880 Indian Head Penny 38,961,000 $5.00 $12.00 $30.00 $80.00
1881 Indian Head Penny 39,208,000 $5.00 $10.00 $25.00 $60.00
1882 Indian Head Penny 38,578,000 $5.00 $10.00 $25.00 $60.00
1883 Indian Head Penny 45,591,500 $5.00 $10.00 $25.00 $60.00
1884 Indian Head Penny 23,257,800 $5.00 $14.00 $27.00 $75.00
1885 Indian Head Penny 11,761,594 $8.00 $30.00 $65.00 $110.00
1886 Indian Head Penny 17,650,000 $6.00 $50.00 $140.00 $175.00
1887 Indian Head Penny 54,223,523 $3.00 $8.00 $18.00 $55.00
1888 Indian Head Penny 37,489,832 $3.00 $8.00 $22.00 $65.00
1889 Indian Head Penny 48,866,025 $3.00 $7.00 $18.00 $60.00
1890 Indian Head Penny 27,180,114 $3.00 $7.00 $16.00 $60.00
1891 Indian Head Penny 47,070,000 $3.00 $7.00 $15.00 $60.00
1892 Indian Head Penny 37,647,087 $3.00 $8.00 $20.00 $60.00
1893 Indian Head Penny 46,640,000 $3.00 $8.00 $20.00 $60.00
1894 Indian Head Penny 16,749,500 $5.00 $20.00 $50.00 $85.00
1895 Indian Head Penny 38,341,574 $3.00 $8.00 $15.00 $45.00
1896 Indian Head Penny 39,055,431 $3.00 $8.00 $15.00 $45.00
1897 Indian Head Penny 50,464,392 $3.00 $8.00 $15.00 $45.00
1898 Indian Head Penny 49,821,284 $3.00 $8.00 $15.00 $45.00
1899 Indian Head Penny 53,598,000 $3.00 $8.00 $15.00 $45.00
1900 Indian Head Penny 66,831,502 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1901 Indian Head Penny 79,609,158 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1902 Indian Head Penny 87,374,704 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1903 Indian Head Penny 85,092,703 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1904 Indian Head Penny 61,326,198 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1905 Indian Head Penny 80,717,011 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1906 Indian Head Penny 96,020,530 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1907 Indian Head Penny 108,137,143 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1908 Indian Head Penny 32,326,367 $2.00 $6.00 $10.00 $40.00
1908-S Indian Head Penny 1,115,000 $90.00 $145.00 $175.00 $290.00
1909 Indian Head Penny 14,368,470 $12.00 $20.00 $25.00 $45.00
1909-S Indian Head Penny 309,000 $300.00 $475.00 $600.00 $1,000.00

*Source Red Book

Indian Head Penny Varieties

1859 Indian Head Penny: Copper-nickel Laurel Wreath Reverse Design

Three major varieties of the Indian Head Cent were released throughout the half a century the coin was in circulation. The first variety is known The obverse of the coin displayed a bust of Lady Liberty facing towards the left, adorned with a Native American headdress. The reverse featured a laurel wreath and the words “ONE CENT”. The Type 1 coin measured 19 millimeters and weighed 4.67 grams. The designer James B. Longacre’s initials J.B.L. can be found discreetly inscribed on the ribbon of the obverse bust’s headdress. The Indian Head Cent’s design was changed just one year later, so the first year of issue piece is also the only year of issue for the initial design. While the 1859 issue is not very rare due to its large mintage, collectors still seek out this unique key date for their collections because of its numismatic value. 

1860-1864 Indian Head penny: 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 Type 2 variety of the Indian Head Cent bears a modified reverse design, as well as the final years of the 88% copper and 12% nickel metal composition.  The 1859 issue’s laurel wreath reverse was changed to a new design of an oak wreath with a patriotic shield at the top of the wreath. A laurel wreath symbolizes victory, while an oak wreath is a symbol of wisdom. In Ancient Roman tradition, an oak wreath was given to a soldier who protected a civilian in battle. The modification of the Indian Head Cent’s reverse design to an oak wreath and shield is a testament to the challenging and tumultuous period that the United States was experiencing at the time, which would then turn into full-blown civil war. 

The Bronze Indian Head Penny

The third and final variety of the Indian Head Cent is known as the bronze Indian Head. The Type 3 coins were minted from 1864 through the last year of the series in 1909. Since the US Mint only switched to the bronze composition halfway through the year, both the copper-nickel and bronze varieties were struck and circulated in 1864. The composition change came with a change in size as well. The Type 3 Indian Head Cent was still 19 millimeters in diameter, but the weight was reduced to 3.11 grams as the coins were made thinner.The mintages of the bronze Indian Head vary; some years experienced higher mintage numbers, while other years were much more limited. The variety of mintages over the 50-year span of the series makes the Indian Head series an adventure to collect, with collectors seeking out hard-to-find key dates or just their favorite years. There are a few key dates of the Type 3 Bronze Indian Head Cent that collectors should look out for. The 1877 and 1909-S Indian Heads are two of the key dates to keep an eye out for! The 1877 Indian Head Penny is the second lowest mintage in the series behind the 1909-S. This year is harder to find as coin collecting was a less popular hobby back then, it picked up more speed in the 1900s.

The Indian Head Penny series is an incredible series to collect. It is a tangible piece of American perseverance; beginning at a critical point in American history, and continuing through the industrial revolution and into the early 20th century. Many legendary numismatists claim the Indian Head Cent as their catalyst for starting their coin collections. Even with the rarer key dates, this is a realistic series to complete due to the abundance of examples in circulated condition. There has never been a better time to start your own collection of Indian Head Cents, so let us at Bullion Shark help you expand your collection today. 



What is an Indian Head Cent?
The Indian Head Cent is a type of U.S. penny that was produced by the United States Mint from 1859 to 1909. The coin features the image of Lady Liberty wearing a Native American headdress on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse. It is one of the most popular and collectible coins among numismatists due to its historical significance and unique design.
Why is the Indian Head Cent important to collectors?
The Indian Head Cent is important to collectors for several reasons: its beautiful and distinctive design, its place in American history, and its rarity, especially in higher grades or certain key years. Collectors also value the coin for the variety of errors and variations that occurred over its 50-year mintage, making it an interesting series to complete.
What are the key dates for Indian Head Cents?
Key dates for Indian Head Cents that are particularly valuable or sought after by collectors include the 1877, one of the rarest and most expensive due to its low mintage; the 1909-S, notable for being the final year of issue and having a low mintage; and the 1864-L, where the "L" stands for the designer's initial, James Longacre, which is visible on the ribbon of the headdress.
How can I tell if my Indian Head Cent is valuable?
To determine if an Indian Head Cent is valuable, examine the coin's date, mint mark, condition, and any possible errors or varieties. Coins from key dates, those in exceptionally fine condition, or with rare errors are typically more valuable. Consulting a coin value guide or getting an appraisal from a reputable coin dealer can provide a more precise valuation.
What is the most expensive Indian Head Cent ever sold?
The most expensive Indian Head Cent ever sold is the 1877 Indian Head Penny in mint condition, which can fetch over $100,000 at auction depending on its grade. The exact highest price can vary based on auction conditions and coin grade, but high-quality examples of this year are among the most coveted by collectors.
How do I properly care for and store my Indian Head Cents?
Proper care and storage of Indian Head Cents involve keeping them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and handling them carefully to avoid scratches or wear. It's best to use acid-free holders, such as 2x2 holders, coin flips, or albums designed for coin collection to prevent damage. Gloves are recommended when handling to avoid oils from your skin affecting the coin's surface.
Where can I sell my Indian Head Cents?
Indian Head Cents can be sold at coin shops, online auction sites, coin shows, or directly to collectors. For valuable or rare examples, consider selling through a reputable auction house that specializes in coins to reach a wider audience of collectors willing to pay a premium. Getting your coins graded by a professional grading service can also increase their value and attractiveness to buyers.

What makes the 1907 Indian Head Penny special or collectible?

The 1907 Indian Head Penny is special and collectible for several reasons. It represents one of the final years of the Indian Head Cent series, which ran from 1859 to 1909, making it a piece of late 19th to early 20th-century American numismatic history. The design, featuring Lady Liberty wearing a Native American headdress, is iconic and beloved by collectors for its beauty and historical significance. Additionally, the 1907 penny had one of the highest mintages in the series, making it relatively more accessible to collectors and a popular choice for those looking to own a piece of American history without the high price tag of the rarer dates.

What is Indian Head Cent weight?

Indian Head Cent weighs 3.11 grams. This specification was consistent throughout the production of the Indian Head series from 1859 to 1909, after the composition and weight were standardized following the initial year of issue. The 1859 Indian Head Cents, along with those minted in subsequent years, were made of a bronze alloy of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc.


 How did the public initially react to the change from the Flying Eagle Cent to the Indian Head Cent?

The public's initial reaction to the change from the Flying Eagle Cent to the Indian Head Cent was generally positive, despite the lack of specific details in the article. The new design was seen as an innovative departure from the previous imagery, and the Indian Head Cent quickly became a beloved symbol of American coinage. Its unique design, featuring Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress, was considered both artistic and a reflection of the country's heritage. Over time, the Indian Head Cent has become one of the most cherished and collected series in American numismatics, indicating that the initial reception was likely favorable among both the general public and collectors.

Are there any notable error coins within the Indian Head Cent series that collectors should be aware of?

Within the Indian Head Cent series, there are indeed notable error coins that collectors highly prize, although the article does not mention them specifically. These error coins include double dies, off-center strikes, and repunched dates, among others. One well-known example is the 1869/9 overdate, where the final "9" in the date was punched over another "9." Error coins like these are sought after for their rarity and the unique stories they tell about the minting process, adding an extra layer of intrigue and value for collectors.

How has the value of Indian Head Cents changed over time, and what factors influence their current market value?
 The value of Indian Head Cents has changed over time due to various factors, including numismatic interest, rarity, the overall condition of specific coins, and historical significance. Market demand plays a significant role in determining the current value of these coins, with key dates and high-grade examples commanding premium prices. Additionally, the precious metal market can influence the value of coins, although this is less of a factor for Indian Head Cents, which are primarily collected for their numismatic value rather than their metal content. Rarity and condition are paramount, with well-preserved examples and those from years with low mintages being particularly valuable. As collecting trends evolve and new collectors enter the market, the value of Indian Head Cents continues to be dynamic, reflecting the ongoing interest in this iconic piece of American coinage history.

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