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What Is A Indian Head Penny Worth Today?

What Is A Indian Head Penny Worth Today? | Indian Head Penny Value

March 20, 2024139863 view(s)

Do you have some old Indian Head pennies and wonder what they're worth? Next to the Lincoln Penny, the Indian Head Penny is among the most popular small cents that people collect.

These coins are almost as old as the U.S. itself. Indian Head Pennies are classic U.S. coins collectors love buying and selling. 

Some of these coins hold particular historical significance, which makes them more valuable than others. It's fun to look back at the history of this much-loved series to see how it began and what valuable pennies are.

Here's a look at the history and value of the Indian Head Penny.


The History of the Indian Head Penny

The U.S. Mint was established in 1792 and has a long history of producing coins for circulation in the United States. Although it once produced coins for other countries, it has focused exclusively on U.S. coin production since 1984.

Cents were the first coins to circulate. Since then, various versions of the beloved penny have existed. The Indian Head Penny is iconic and one of the most popular designs in the history of the small cent.

It's a favorite of numismatics and coin collectors around the world.

The U.S. Mint first produced the one-cent coin in 1793. They also produced the half-cent coin in their new refinery in Philadelphia, PA.

The first coin had a face value of one cent and was made of copper. The diameter of the cent was 1 1/8 inch (22.57 mm). It was roughly the size of the half-dollar coin and known as the large cent.


Gold and Silver Tender

Between 1792 and 1862, the U.S. only accepted silver and gold as legal tender. In the late 1840s and 1850s, the discovery of gold in California led to increasing inflation for precious metals like copper. 

Producing copper coins like the large cent and half-cent became too expensive. In 1857, due to increasing costs, the Mint began looking for alternatives.

They discontinued the half-cent and changed the one-cent composition to nickel and copper, reducing the coin to 0.750 inches (19.05 mm).

This same diameter is still used today for denomination, although modern pennies are now slightly thinner.


The Flying Eagle Penny

A new design, the Flying Eagle Cent, was issued in 1857. Philadelphia engraver James B. Longacre created the design. He created the eagle design based on the work of his predecessor, Christian Gobrecht. The coin's reverse featured a wreath circling the denomination.

Due to their nickel composition, these coins looked bright. People called them "White Cents" or "Nicks." The Flying Eagle Penny was produced for circulation in 1857 and 1858.

In 1859, there were production difficulties, and Longacre designed a new coin called the Indian Head Penny.


The Indian Head Penny Design

On the Indian Head Penny, the obverse featured the goddess Liberty. She was wearing an Indian headdress.

The words "United States of America" circled her portrait, and the mint year was beneath it. The numismatic tale of the design suggests that Lady Liberty's facial features were based on the features of Longacre's daughter.

The coin's visuals were controversial. The obverse shows a Caucasian woman wearing an Indian headdress, which was typically reserved for Native American men as a show of respect among their tribe.

People felt the coin depicted a historical inaccuracy. At the time the pennies were issued, Native Americans were being forced to leave the land of their ancestors.

Some historians believe this was a slight to Native American history. However, the designer disagreed and strongly defended his artistic choices.

In 1860, the wreath was changed to an oak wreath and shield, along with a presidential seal at the top. The highest mintage of the Indian Head Cent was in 1907.

At this time, pieces 108, 138, and 618 were struck. The production surpassed 100 million units. The lowest production levels were the Indian Head Pennies struck between 1877 and 1909.

The Indian Head Pennies were produced at the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint branches. The last of these coins produced carry an "S" below the wreath on the reverse.


Increase in Value in Postwar Years

The demand for nickel significantly increased during the Civil War. The price of nickel rose, and people began trying to hoard the copper-nickel cents. 

Congress passed the new Coinage Act in 1864. This act authorized the production of pennies made from bronze alloy, which is 95% copper, 5% zinc, and tin.

In the postwar years, the popularity of Indian Head Pennies skyrocketed. The U.S. continued the design until 1909, when it began producing the Lincoln Cent.

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Where Are the Valuable Indian Head Pennies Now?

The Indian Head Penny doesn't contain precious metals like silver or gold. Its numismatic value derives from its appeal as a piece of history and a collectible coin rather than its intrinsic value.

Every Indian Head Penny is over 100 years old, and old coins tend to be worth more than new ones. 

Any old penny in mint condition will draw the attention of a collector. An Indian Head Penny's worth depends on its age and appearance.

The better its condition, the greater the price. A rare Indian Head Penny that's uncirculated is worth more than a circulated one with prominent wear marks.

Since the Indian Head penny's design was issued before the American Civil War, many numismatics consider these coins an essential part of American history.

Older Indian Head Pennies sell at much higher prices than newer ones. The coins were designed to last and are still in usable condition today. 

Some Indian Head Pennies are still in pristine condition. Which of the Indian Head Pennies are worth the most? The most valuable one is dated 1877.

However, all the Indian Head Pennies are valuable. Any collector would be happy to have them.


Selling Indian Head Pennies

If you're interested in selling Liberty Gold Coins or Indian Head Pennies, you have many options. Just remember to be careful about where you choose to sell.

It's a good idea to know the face value of the coin ahead of time. You can choose an online dealer, local dealer, or auction website.

Alternatively, you may want to hold on to your coins. Remember that its value will only go up with time.


1968 Indian Head Penny, MS66+ Red

This Indian Head Penny sold for $72,000. Its original mintage was 10 million coins, and it is considered relatively scarce.

Fewer than 130 of these dates are certified with red from PCGS. The scarcest of the Indian Head Cents are the ones produced in the early years.

These coins tend to lose color over time. For this specific coin, the brighter the red, the higher the value. Only seven coins have the MS66 rating, three at NGC and four at PCGS.

These pennies are considered some of the most outstanding strikes of this series and are still known to exist.


1888/7 Indian Head Penny, MS63 Brown

This Indian Head Penny sold for $74,750 at Heritage Auctions. It's considered extremely rare. Many coin enthusiasts think the master hub for the 1887 cent was used in the production of the 1888 issue. 

A lump of number '7" is visible at the top and bottom of the number "8", which is the last digit in the mint year. There are only 30 known examples that are well-circulated.

This coin is often considered one of the most significant numismatic discoveries and was published in the 1970 issue of The Numismatic.

Indian Head Penny Value


1869 Indian Head Penny, MS66+

This Indian Head Penny sold for $84,000. This penny is hard to find in any grade.

A mistake in the Mint Act in April 1864 led to a large-scale melting of cents and two-cent pieces in the late 1860s. The Act didn't provide a redemption clause for these denominations.

The legal tender limit was 10 cents, and banks refused to accept large deposits of these coins from merchants. The merchants began turning coins into the Mint for remelting and recoining.

Over the next ten years, over 55 million of the bronze cents were melted. That caused a reduced availability of the 1869 cent, which already had a small mintage of only 6.4 million pieces.

This rarity increased its value substantially.


1890 Indian Head Penny, MS67+

This Indian Head penny sold for $91,062.50. Many coin experts consider this the finest Indian Head Cent in the 50-year series. The surfaces are almost perfect.

Only around two dozen examples of the series have the grade MS67 RD, and even fewer grade MS67+. Coin experts believe this is a fantastic fact and why these coins are so valuable today.


1909-S Indian Head Penny MS67

This Indian Head Penny sold for $97,750. The Indian Head Penny series' last mintage was in 1909 when fewer than 15,000 were minted.

Since it's the final issue, collectors are drawn to these coins. This is especially true for the 1909 coins struck at the San Francisco Mint.

Only 309,000 of these coins were minted with the San Francisco mint mark. A few are still around today.


1899 Indian Head Penny, MS68

This Indian Head Penny sold for $108,000. Among all the millions of bronze Indian Head Cents struck between 1864 and 1909, this penny is the finest of the series.

These coins are very rare, and it is hard to find them at the MS68 red level. The sides of the coin are blemish-free and have a shiny mint luster.


1897 Indian Cent, Proof 67+

This Indian Head Penny sold for $108,000. This particular penny is considered an underrated rarity. It's among the later dates in the series.

It is part of a small mintage of only 1,938 proofs. You will most likely find it in Proof 64 or fewer grades. 

Over the last century, these coins have been polished, cleaned, or mishandled. Some are sold at auctions around twice a year, but cents with traces of Cameo contrast are very rare.


1872 Indian Head Penny, MS66

This Indian Head Penny sold for $126,500. This is considered a tough date to find. The coins in this series are streaked due to uneven alloy mixes.

Some were poorly struck or are missing details due to oil getting into the planchet or dye during production. Finding a blemish-free example is challenging.


1902 Indian Head Penny, MS68

This Indian Head Penny sold for 144,000. Only two of these coins are known to exist in great condition with a sharp strike, and it's difficult to find them in good condition. 

The better the condition, the rarer and more valuable the coin. Superb gems occasionally appear at auctions at a high price.


1877 Indian Head Penny, MS66

This Indian Head Penny sold for 149,500. This is the rarest of the Indian Head pennies. When it was issued, the country was experiencing a poor economy.

This created a demand for cents. Only 852,000 coins were minted in 1877, the lowest mintage in the entire series.


1864 L On Ribbon Indian Head Penny, PR65

This Indian Head Penny sold for $161,000 at auction. The year 1864 was the first year for bronze Indian Cents.

Towards the end of 1864, the Indian portrait was sharpened, and an L initial for Longacre was placed on the ribbon behind the neck. There are an estimated 20 pieces like this.

They are considered very rare, with few owner exchanges on record. When these coins come up for auction, they sell for record prices.

There are many more Indian Head Pennies for sale and in circulation that are valuable pennies for your coin collection. If you're lucky enough to come across one, consult a trusted authenticator or coin dealer to ensure its authenticity and value.


The Value of the Indian Head Penny

The Indian Head Penny is part of American History. Aside from the Lincoln penny, it's the most popular of the small cent series and is loved by numismatists and coin collectors alike.

If you're interested in collecting coins or investing in precious metals, they're always a great investment and a fun way to diversify your portfolio. At the U.S. Gold Bureau, we pride ourselves on our relationships with our valuable clients.

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