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Denver Coins --> United States Coins --> United State Cent - Indian Head cent

Denver Gold and Silver
5475 Leetsdale Dr Suite 210
Denver, Colorado 80246

Monday - Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sundays by Appointment Only
Call anytime - leave a message: Main Number: 303-333-1411

We carry -- Indian Head cent

Example: 1908 S VF20 ANACS

The Indian Head one-cent coin, also known as an Indian Penny, was produced by the United States Mint from 1859 to 1909 at the Philadelphia Mint and in 1908 and 1909 at the San Francisco Mint. It was designed by James Barton Longacre, the engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.

The obverse of the coin shows "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," the head of Liberty wearing a feather head dress of a Native American and the year of production. The word "LIBERTY" appears on the band of the head dress as is required on all United States coins. From 1859 to 1864 the design did not feature any mark of the designer. When the change to bronze (see below) occurred in 1864, Chief Engraver Longacre modified the portrait by sharpening the details. He added his initial "L" on the ribbon behind Liberty's neck as well. This design would continue until the end of the series, with a minor modification by Charles E. Barber in 1886.

Two reverse designs were used for the series. In 1859 the reverse featured "ONE CENT" within a wreath of laurel (or properly olive). From 1860 until the end of the series the reverse featured "ONE CENT" within a wreath of oak and olive tied at the base with a ribbon with a Federal shield above. This design continued until the end on the series in 1909 with a minor modification by William Barber in 1870.

The coins struck between 1859 and 1864 contained 88% copper and 12% nickel. During this time, prior to the issuance of the Five-Cent nickel coin, the cent was commonly referred to as a "Nickel" or "Nick," for short. Due to the hoarding of all coinage during the Civil War, the nickel cent disappeared from daily use and were replaced in many Northern cities by private tokens. The success of these copper tokens prompted the change of the cent to a similar metal. In 1864, the alloy changed to Bronze (95% copper and 5% tin and zinc), and the weight of the coins was reduced from 72 grains to 48 grains. (This weight continued for copper-alloy U.S. cents until the 1982 introduction of the current copper-plated zinc cent.

The total production of the Indian Head cent was 1,849,648,000 pieces. The 1909-S had the lowest mintage, only 309,000. It is not considered as scarce as the 1877 issue, (852,500), since fewer of those were kept, particularly in the higher grades.


In 1858, The Mint tested new designs for the cent. Although the Flying Eagle cent which began regular production in 1857, is aesthetically pleasing to collectors today, it was proving to be an unsatisfactory design for producing thick coins in hard metal. The head and tail of the eagle were opposite the wreath on the reverse. The coins did not strike-up well, and if the striking pressure was increased, the dies broke too easily. The Indian Head design was much better suited because the design was more central and did not oppose the metal flow with the wreath on the reverse. The Director of the Mint, James Ross Snowden, submitted models[1] for a new design, and Secretary Cobb gave his approval to the Indian Head Cent.

The production of Indian Cents between 1859 and 1860 was large because copper large cents and half cents in circulation up until 1857 were being redeemed with the new cents. Some years production, like 1861 was based solely on the number of the pre-1857 copper coins that were redeemed under the Mint Act of March 3, 1857, which allowed for their redemption until 1860 (revised to extent until 1861).

Except for minor design changes in 1860 and 1886 the series continued without major varieties from 1859 to 1909. There is a slight variation in date in 1873, and a well known over date (1888/7). Most dates are available in lower grades for relatively low cost, and are quite affordable from the 1880s on.


Initially, the production of the five-cent nickel and the one-cent bronze coin was limited by law to the Philadelphia Mint. An Act of Congress passed on April 24, 1906, provided for the making of these denominations at other Mint facilities.

The manufacture of the Indian Head cent at the San Francisco Mint in November 1908 marked the first time this denomination of coins was minted outside of Philadelphia. These San Francisco-minted Indian Head Cents bear the "S" mint mark beneath the ribbon of the wreath on the reverse. One-cent coin production did not begin at the Denver Mint until 1911, during the third year of the Lincoln cent design.

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