Indian head penny: A Collector’s Item

us coinThe Indian head penny is commonly referred to as the Indian penny. The United States Mint produced the coin from 1859 to 1909. The Philadelphia Mint has it in production until 1908 while the San Francisco Mint produced it until 1909. James Barton Longacre is the designer of the penny.

The front of the coin writes “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. The Native American on the said coin wears a feather head dress. On the head dress, there is the word “LIBERTY”.

The first coins released don’t have the initial “L” on the ribbon at the back of the head’s neck. It only occurred after Chief Engraver Longacre modified the design by adding some sharpness to the details of the coin. At the same time, the coin was changed to bronze in 1864. The design was used continuously with only minor modifications.

The coin is composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. There was no 5-cent nickel coin by them, so this coin was commonly called nickel. The nickel disappeared during the Civil war because of the rampant hoarding of coins. Private tokens were instead used by cities in the North. The next coin produced used similar metal with changes in the alloy composite. It became an alloy made of 95% copper with tin and zinc making up the rest of the 5%. From 72 grains, the weight of the coin was lowered to 48 grains. The same weight was in use until 1982. After 1982, the weight of the copper-zinc coins produced is 38.6.
There were a total of 1,849,648,000 pieces of Indian head coins produced. The 1909-S had the lowest production with only 309,000 pieces.

Before its production, another design was considered by the Mint. It was the Flying Eagle design. The design was more visually desirable to the collectors than the Indian head design. However, producing them in thick, hard metal proved to be disappointing. The eagle’s head and tail did not strike-up as expected. Improving the pressure will make it brittle. That’s why the Indian head design was adapted instead of the flying eagle design. James Ross Snowden, the director of the Mint at that time submitted various designs. Secretary Cobb had the Indian head design approved.

The present value of coins depends on their physical appearance. Circulated coins are those coins which have been frequently used in trading. Those that are not used in trading are called uncirculated. It is not advisable to clean the coins because it will lower its value. Dealers could easily distinguished cleaned coins.

It is important to understand that when a dealer of coins runs out of supply, he can’t just order for more production. That is because production of the said coin has already ceased. The dealer then has to buy coins from other sellers or from anybody who owns them. If somebody sells some coins to a dealer, then that price will be the value or the wholesale price of the coin. On the other hand, the amount for which the dealer sells the coin will be the price or the retail price.

The pennies do not contain silver or gold. They are not made up of precious metals. Therefore, the value of the pennies will only be based on the demand of the market. Because a lot of people are collecting this specific design, dealers will pay more for each coin sold to them. The trick is to sort the coins and organize them according to its condition.

There are some Indian pennies that are worth more than others. These are the ones which usually have the counterfeit versions. Therefore, if someone happens to own them, the owner must be sure to have them authenticated by respected coin dealers.

The Indian head penny produced in Philadelphia doesn’t have mint marks. On the other hand, the ones that were produced in San Francisco have S marks. The mint mark is located at the reverse side, under the laurel.

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