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1909 Indian Head Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1909 Indian Head Cent, reportedly the first one struck that year. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1909 Indian Head Cent, reportedly the first one, struck that year. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The year 1909 marked the 50th and final year of James Barton Longacre’s Indian Head Cent design. It was a good run for an iconic design, and by the summer, a new design–Victor David Brenner’s Lincoln Wheat Cent–would be released in time to mark another anniversary, the centennial of the birth of our nation’s 16th president. The 1909 Indian Head Cent was struck at both the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. Philadelphia did the heavy lifting, producing 14,368,470 cents with the Indian Head design. This would be the first year where the date was hubbed and transferred to the master dies. In theory, this process was meant to eliminate overdates, although Mint workers in later years still found ways to produce this error.

Production of the last Philadelphia Mint Indian Head Cents began on January 2, 1909. In the illustration above, you will see a coin purported to be the first 1909 Indian Head Cent struck at the Philadelphia Mint by coiner Rhine R. Freed. Numismatic firm Stack’s Bowers offered this coin for sale, with the card in the image, on March 27, 2024, where it brought $3,600 USD.

Numismatist Rick Snow describes two varieties of 1909 Indian Head Cents in his Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution Guide (2014). The first is a common Master Die Doubled Die, which shows the doubling of Longacre’s initial. Snow says this is a common variety that impacted numerous dies and is of little interest (curiously, this is Cherrypicker’s Guide variety FS-101). The second is a minor doubled die that shows very faint doubling on the obverse inscriptions.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The PCGS and NGC populations of MS67RD coins have experienced moderate increases in recent years. NGC tops out at MS67RD, while PCGS has advanced to the MS67+RD grade. We’ve only positively identified one MS67RD that upgraded to MS67+RD, but we believe it is likely that there are others. The Bender coin is the current record holder, with a $21,600 price realized in January 2023.

Top Population: PCGS MS67+RD (5, 4/2024). NGC MS67RD (8, 4/2024). CAC MS67RD (5:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • PCGS MS67+RD CAC #06545501: “The Stewart Blay Collection of Indian Cents,” GreatCollections, November 12, 2023, Lot 1455955 – $15,187.50; GreatCollections, April 28, 2024, Lot 155659 – View.
  • PCGS MS67+RD CAC #38855584: “The Bender Family Collection, Part II,” Heritage Auctions, January 11, 2023, Lot 3331 – $21,600. Bender Collection is on the insert. There is a copper spot above the gap between the 3rd and 4th feathers, and there is a scratch above feather 2. 
  • PCGS MS67+RD CAC #39145730: Heritage Auctions, August 3, 2020, Lot 3026 – $18,000. Two diagonal ticks in the left field of the obverse between nose and ED. Light discoloration spot under D. Hit on second 9. Carbon spot under TA.
  • PCGS MS67+RD #39260988: As PCGS MS67RD #25687091. Heritage Auctions, August 12, 2015, Lot 3942 – $6,462.50. As PCGS MS67+RD #39260988. Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2020, Lot 3638 – $12,048. Upgraded one-half point. Carbon spot to the left of the headband. Planchet void below ES. Carbon spot on the neck. There is a carbon spot to the left and above the first feather. Another spot above feather two.
  • PCGS MS67RD #25645113: Heritage Auctions, December 3, 2015, Lot 3024 – $4,817.50; “The Boulder City Collection,” Heritage Auctions, May 23, 2022, Lot 44094 – $4,500.
  • PCGS MS67RD #25671432: Heritage Auctions, October 7, 2021, Lot 3028 – $5,160.
  • PCGS MS67RD #41953606: “The Dayton Collection of Indian Head Cents,” Heritage Auctions, April 22, 2021, Lot 3237 – $4,560. Dayton on insert. Thin scratch below U.
  • PCGS MS67RD EEPS #37228200: Heritage Auctions, January 21, 2021, Lot 3354 – $5,400. A carbon spot touches the bottom seraph of the first S of STATES. Another is to the left of the tip of 1—spot above O of ONE. Obverse and reverse fields show light discoloration.
  • PCGS MS67RD CAC #05965304: Heritage Auctions, September 27, 2007, Lot 210 – $20,125. Top pop, pop four when offered; Heritage Auctions, April 29, 2010, Lot 2022 – $16,100. Top pop, pop four when offered; “The Castle Collection,” Heritage Auctions, August 14, 2019, Lot 3107 – $7,800. CAC added. Top Pop, pop 19 when offered.
  • PCGS MS67RD #25651427: Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2016, Lot 4533 – $4,465.
  • PCGS MS67RD #25294257: Heritage Auctions, August 7, 2014, Lot 5532 – $11,162.50.
  • NGC MS67RD #3418902-002: Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2014, Lot 3439 – $3,818.75.
  • NGC MS67RD #1303761-002: Heritage Auctions, May 29, 2008, Lot 2338 – $3,737.50; Heritage Auctions, February 5, 2009, Lot 321 – $3,450.
  • NGC MS64BN #6268101-003: Wayte Raymond, April 29, 1941, Lot 933; Stack’s Bowers, March 27, 2024, Lot 5060 – $3,600. Lot included an authenticated card representing that this was the first one cent coined in 1909. The coin is signed by coiner Rhine R. Freed.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1909
Denomination: One Cent (USD)
Mintmark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 14,368,470
Alloy: .950 Copper, .050 Tin and Zinc
Weight: 3.11 g
Diameter: 19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: James Barton Longacre
REV Designer: James Barton Longacre
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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