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Indian Head Cents

Otherwise known as the Indian Head penny, this copper penny first entered circulation in 1859 following the Flying Eagle cent. They remained in circulation until 1909.

Explore L&C Coins’ wide selection of pennies today to begin or grow your unique collection. Perfect for beginners and seasoned collectors alike, these 1859-1909 coins allow you to own a piece of American history.

The History of Indian Head Pennies


The Indian Head cent was a one-cent coin produced from 1859 to 1909. This iconic one-cent coin was created to replace the Flying Eagle, which had production difficulties due to opposing high points on the obverse and reverse.



The Indian Head penny was designed in 1858 by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint and the designer of this coin’s predecessor, the Flying Eagle cent. Mint Director James Ross Snowden chose the laurel wreath reverse design due to its lower relief — perfect for achieving a great strike. 

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to the Treasury enquiring about a redesign of many US coins that he felt lacked “artistic merit.” In the following years, various coins including the Double Eagle, Eagle, and Half Eagle were redesigned. 


Circulation and Availability

Indian cents were hoarded during the 1862-1864 economic downturn caused by the American Civil War. They became popular during the postwar period, and only became more sought-after with the invention of coin-operated machines in the late 19th century. 

In 1908, sculptor Victor David Brenner was hired by Mint Director Frank A. Leach to design a replacement for the Indian Head penny. 1909 was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, and so his head was chosen to be featured on the new penny’s obverse.

1909 was the final year of Indian Head cent production, before the coin was replaced by the Lincoln cent — America’s current one-cent coin. 


Choose L&C Coins to Expand Your Collection

Founded in 1974, L&C Coins is a family-owned-and-operated Southern California business created by coin collectors for coin collectors. Our expertise and long history in the industry have made us a well-known and reputable source for authentic, quality coins. 

When you shop our expansive coin collection, you’ll enjoy free shipping on all standard orders, and express shipping on orders over $25. Have questions about how to create your ultimate coin collection? Reach out to the coin experts at L&C Coins today. We’re here to help. 


Frequently-Asked Questions

What years are the most valuable Indian Head pennies?

Some of the most valuable Indian cents are the 1877 Indian Head cent, the 1864 Indian cent: L on ribbon, the 1869 Indian cent, and the 1888 Indian cent: last 8 over 7. 


What makes Indian cents produced during those years so rare?

The “Indian cent: L on ribbon” refers to an “L” marking behind the hair of the figure’s neck which began to appear in 1864. The 1877 Indian Head cent is one of the most rare coins in terms of production numbers, especially in pristine condition. The 1899 and 1869 coins were produced in low numbers, and they can be difficult to find in good condition. Finally, the “1888 Indian cent: last 8 over 7” refers to an 8 punched over the 7 of an 1887 date. 


Why are Indian cents made of a copper alloy?

Originally, the Indian Head pennies’ predecessor (the Flying Eagle) was composed of 12% nickel and 88% copper. Later, when cents were hoarded during the American Civil War and nickel was in short supply, Mint officials passed the Coinage Act of 1864 and authorized a slimmer cent composed of bronze alloy. 


What makes an Indian Head penny valuable?

The value of an Indian penny depends on several factors, including its year, condition, and rarity. Generally, the older the coin and the better its condition, the more valuable it is. Rarity also plays a significant role, and some Indian cents, like the 1877, are rarer than others due to low mintage or errors in production.


What do Indian head cents symbolize?

Indian cents feature a portrait of Lady Liberty wearing a feathered headdress on the obverse side of the coin. This design was meant to symbolize the westward expansion of the United States, which was primarily Native American territory.


What are the top 10 most valuable Indian Head pennies?

Some of the most valuable Indian Head pennies include the 1877, 1869 9 over 9, 1909-S, 1908-S, 1872 shallow N, 1873, 1872, 1871, 1909-S VDB, and 1908-S over S. These coins can be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on their condition.


What is the rarest Indian cent?

The rarest of these iconic cents is the 1877 Indian penny, which had a very low mintage of only 852 coins. This makes it highly sought after by collectors and investors alike, and it can be worth thousands of dollars in fine or uncirculated condition.

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