Indian Head Penny Specifications

Indian Head Cent: Specifications, Details and General Information

1877 Indian Head Sent
Heritage Auction Galleries

Background and History

The Indian head penny was created to replace the Flying Eagle cent because the United States Mint was having problems striking the Flying Eagle cent uniformly. Under direction from Mint Director James Ross Snowden, James B. Longacre designed the replacement. The reverse design stayed the relatively the same while Longacre replaced the obverse design with an allegorical figure of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian headdress.

Longacre first used this allegorical figure idea on the 1854 one dollar gold piece. The reverse design was very similar to the preceding Flying Eagle reverse. In the first year (1859) the reverse had a laurel wreath surrounding the words ONE CENT. In 1860, Longacre changed the wreath on the reverse side to a wreath made of oak leaves with the Union Shield at the top of the wreath.

Due to the rising cost of raw materials during the Civil War, the composition was changed midway through 1864 from a mixture of copper and nickel to a bronze alloy. Additionally, Congress approved a reduction in the weight from 4.67 grams to 3.11 grams. Production of these cents continued through 1909 when the Treasury Department replaced it with the Lincoln cent that commemorated the 100th anniversary of his birth. 

Indian Head penny values and prices have remained historically flat when corrected for inflation.

However, there are a few Indian Head Penny key dates and varieties that appreciate at a faster rate.

Detailed Specifications

Issuing GovernmentUnited States of America
 $0.01 (One Cent)
Coinage Type Indian Head Cent (a.k.a. Indian Head Penny) 
Mintage Dates 1859 to 1909 
Production Facilities Philadelphia and San Francisco 
Mint Mark Location  On the reverse, at the bottom below the bow on the wreath. (1908 & 1909 only) 
Composition 1859 - 1864: 88% copper, 12% nickel (copper-nickel)
1864 - 1909: 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc (bronze)
Weight 1859 - 1864: 4.67 grams
1864 - 1909: 3.11grams
Weight Tolerance (+/-)1859 - 1864: 0.259 grams
1864 - 1909: 0.290grams 
Actual Gold Weight  () 0.0000 Troy Ounces  (contains no gold)
Actual Silver Weight  (ASW) 0.0000 Troy Ounces   (contains no silver)
Actual Platinum Weight  () 0.0000 Troy Ounces   (contains no Platinum)
 1859 - 1864: 8.92 (copper-nickel)
1864 - 1909: 8.84 (bronze)
Diameter19 mm 
Thickness 1859 - 1864: 2.33 mm
1864 - 1909: 1.55 mm 
Edge TypePlain 
Obverse Description Lady Liberty wearing an Indian headdress facing left, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around perimeter with date at bottom
Obverse Designer & EngraverJames B. Longacre 
Reverse Description 1859: ONE CENT inside laurel wreath
1860 - 1909: ONE CENT inside an wreath made of oak leaves with a Union Shield at the top
Reverse Designer & EngraverJames B. Longacre  
(Krause-Mishler Catalog No.) 1859: 87
1860 - 1864: 90
1864 - 1909:  90a
Notes Difficulties in properly striking the copper-nickel composition led to the decision  to change the composition to bronze in the middle of 1864.

Production Years, Mints and Types

The Indian Head penny was minted from 1859 until 1909 and in two different mint facilities: Philadelphia, and Denver.  Learn about the years, strike type, mint facilities, the mint mark used on the coin and a description of any type differences in coins minted for that year. Indian Head Penny mintage and production figures are reflective of the time in which they were made.

YearMintMint MarkType
Reverse: Laurel wreath, no shield    Composition: Copper-Nickel
1859Philadelphia  
1859 ProofPhiladelphia  
Reverse: Oak Wreath with Union Shield     Composition: Copper-Nickel
1860Philadelphia  
1860 ProofPhiladelphia  
1861Philadelphia  
1861 ProofPhiladelphia  
1862Philadelphia  
1862 ProofPhiladelphia  
1863Philadelphia  
1863 ProofPhiladelphia  
1864Philadelphia  
1864 ProofPhiladelphia  
Composition: Bronze
1864Philadelphia  
1864Philadelphia L on Ribbon
1864 ProofPhiladelphia  
1864 ProofPhiladelphia L on Ribbon
1865Philadelphia  
1865 ProofPhiladelphia  
1866Philadelphia  
1866 ProofPhiladelphia  
1867Philadelphia  
1867 ProofPhiladelphia  
1868Philadelphia  
1868 ProofPhiladelphia  
YearMintMint MarkType
1869Philadelphia  
1869 ProofPhiladelphia  
1870Philadelphia  
1870 ProofPhiladelphia  
1871Philadelphia  
1871 ProofPhiladelphia  
1872Philadelphia  
1872 ProofPhiladelphia  
1873Philadelphia Closed 3
1873Philadelphia Open 3
(After complaints that the "3" looked like an "8", the mint created a design with a more open "3".)
1873 ProofPhiladelphia Closed 3
1873 ProofPhiladelphia Open 3
(After complaints that the "3" looked like an "8", the mint created a design with a more open "3".)
1874Philadelphia  
1874 ProofPhiladelphia  
1875Philadelphia  
1875 ProofPhiladelphia  
1876Philadelphia  
1876 ProofPhiladelphia  
1877Philadelphia  
1877 ProofPhiladelphia  
1878Philadelphia  
1878 ProofPhiladelphia  
1879Philadelphia  
1879 ProofPhiladelphia  
YearMintMint MarkType
1880Philadelphia  
1880 ProofPhiladelphia  
1881Philadelphia  
1881 ProofPhiladelphia  
1882Philadelphia  
1882 ProofPhiladelphia  
1883Philadelphia  
1883 ProofPhiladelphia  
1884Philadelphia  
1884 ProofPhiladelphia  
1885Philadelphia  
1885 ProofPhiladelphia  
1886Philadelphia Type 1
(Last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligns with the lower curl on the Indian's bust.)
1886Philadelphia Type 2
(Last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligns more to the right of the lower curl on the Indian's bust.)
1886 ProofPhiladelphia Type 1
(Last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligns with the lower curl on the Indian's bust.)
1886 ProofPhiladelphia Type 2
(Last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligns more to the right of the lower curl on the Indian's bust.)
1887Philadelphia  
1887 ProofPhiladelphia  
1888Philadelphia  
1888 ProofPhiladelphia  
1889Philadelphia  
1889 ProofPhiladelphia  
1890Philadelphia  
1890 ProofPhiladelphia  
1891Philadelphia  
1891 ProofPhiladelphia  
1892Philadelphia  
1892 ProofPhiladelphia  
1893Philadelphia  
1893 ProofPhiladelphia  
1894Philadelphia  
1894 ProofPhiladelphia  
YearMintMint MarkType
1895Philadelphia  
1895 ProofPhiladelphia  
1896Philadelphia  
1896 ProofPhiladelphia  
1897Philadelphia  
1897 ProofPhiladelphia  
1898Philadelphia  
1898 ProofPhiladelphia  
1899Philadelphia  
1899 ProofPhiladelphia  
1900Philadelphia  
1900 ProofPhiladelphia  
1901Philadelphia  
1901 ProofPhiladelphia  
1902Philadelphia  
1902 ProofPhiladelphia  
1903Philadelphia  
1903 ProofPhiladelphia  
1904Philadelphia  
1904 ProofPhiladelphia  
1905Philadelphia  
1905 ProofPhiladelphia  
1906Philadelphia  
1906 ProofPhiladelphia  
1907Philadelphia  
1907 ProofPhiladelphia  
1908Philadelphia  
1908 ProofPhiladelphia  
1908San FranciscoS 
1909Philadelphia  
1909 ProofPhiladelphia  
1909San FranciscoS 

Errors and Varieties

there are several popular errors and varieties that Indian Head penny collectors look for because they carry a premium value over common date coins. 

YearMintMint MarkError/VarietyNotes/Description
1869Philadelphia 9 over 9The doubling is most noticeable on the last two digits of the date, "69"
1869 ProofPhiladelphia 9 over 9The doubling is most noticeable on the last two digits of the date, "69"
1873Philadelphia Dbl. LIBERTYLook for doubling of the word  "LIBERTY" on the Indian's headband
1873 ProofPhiladelphia Dbl. LIBERTYLook for doubling of the word  "LIBERTY" on the Indian's headband
1888Philadelphia 8 over 7The lower part of the last in the date (the "7") can still be seen sticking out from the lower left corner of the "8".
1888 ProofPhiladelphia 8 over 7The lower part of the last in the date (the "7") can still be seen sticking out from the lower left corner of the "8".

 

Suggested Books on Indian Head Penny (i.e. Indian Head Cents)

  • Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins; Walter Breen; Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 1, 1988); ISBN-13: 978-0385142076
  • The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties, 5th Edition, Volume 1; Fivaz, Bill and J.T. Stanton; Publisher: Whitman Publishing, Atlanta (2009); ISBN-13: 978-0794822859
  • Flying Eagle & Indian Cents; Snow, Richard; Eagle Eye Press; 1992
  • A Guide Book of Flying Eagle & Indian Head Cents; Snow, Richard; Whitman Publishing, Atlanta; 2009; ISBN-10: 0794828310; ISBN-13: 978-0794828318
  • The Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution Guide 1859-1869; Snow, Richard; Eagle Eye Rare Coins; Tucson, AZ; 2005; ASIN: B000VK2IAY
  • The Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution Guide 1870-1889; Snow, Richard; Eagle Eye Rare Coins Tucson, AZ; 2007; ASIN: B000VK7PP2
  • The Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution Guide 1890-1909; Snow, Richard; Eagle Eye Rare Coins Tucson, AZ; 2009; ISBN-10: 0970375050; ISBN-13: 978-0970375056
  • A Buyer's and Enthusiast's Guide to Flying Eagle and Indian Cents; Q. David Bowers; Bowers and Merena Galleries (1996); ISBN-10: 0943161681; ISBN-13: 978-0943161686
  • Flying Eagle & Indian Cents; Snow, Richard; Eagle Eye Press; First printing edition; 1992; ASIN: B0006OXI2W
  • The Finders report: A Comprehensive Guide To Selected Rare Flying Eagle and Indian Cent Die Varieties; Larry R Steve; Nuvista Press; 1st edition (1995); ISBN-10: 0964585022; ISBN-13: 978-0964585027

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