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The Indian Head Penny - America's Historic Copper Coin

Eisenhower Dollar CoinThe Indian Head Penny has great historical significance in American numismatics for several reasons. First, it marked a transition away from depictions of Liberty that had dominated American coinage, instead featuring a Native American for the first time. Second, the coin's long mintage from 1859-1909 covered important eras like the Civil War and Western expansion. Additionally, the Indian Head Penny represents the work of renowned engraver James Longacre. Finally, as a 19th century copper coin that circulated widely, the Indian Head Penny served as an everyday currency for commerce and trade during a formative period in the young nation's growth. This significant penny is a window into America's eventful history from before the Civil War through the turn of the 20th century.

Introduction to the Indian Head Penny

The Indian Head Penny was minted from 1859 to 1909, featuring a Native American headdress on the obverse. Though plentiful overall, rare dates like the 1877 make the penny series challenging to complete. The Indian Head Penny represents a unique chapter in American numismatic history. Minted from 1859 to 1909, the Indian Head Penny is a famous 19th century American copper coin known for its obverse design depicting a Native American in a feathered headdress. Designed by engraver James Longacre, the Indian Head Penny replaced the earlier Flying Eagle cent and would itself later be succeeded by the Lincoln Wheat Penny in 1909. Millions of these historic one cent pieces were struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans Mints over the half century run. While plentiful in lower grades, key date rarities like the 1877 make the Indian Head Penny a treasure for advanced collectors looking to complete this challenging series. With a decades-long run and elegant Native American design, the Indian Head Penny represents an important and unique chapter in American numismatic history.

Key Rarities Like the 1877

While generally common in lower grades, Indian Head pennies become challenging in higher mint state levels. The 1877 issue, with a tiny mintage under 1 million pieces, is the undisputed key date. The 1909-S also has a very low mintage of only 309,000 coins. Other better dates include the 1864 L and CN varieties.

Design Variations Over Time

The design underwent minor modifications over the half century run. Starting in 1859, the penny was struck in copper-nickel before switching to bronze in 1864. The reverse wreath was also revised, and the size refined. These variations allow collectors to acquire both major types.


The Indian Head Penny, struck for over 50 years, represents an important era in American numismatic history. The elegant headdress obverse design along with collectible rarities make this 19th century copper coin series an enduring favorite with hobbyists.

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PCGS CoinFacts - Indian Head Cent
USA Coin Book - Indian Head Cents
CoinWeek - The Indian Head Penny
NGC Coin Explorer - Indian Head Cents (1859-1909)
PCGS CoinFacts - Indian Head Cents
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