By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday, April 14, bidding ends on GreatCollections.com for an exceptional bronze 1864 Indian cent. Graded MS-66 RD by PCGS in an Old Green Holder and approved by CAC, this Civil War-era cent features appealing original luster and a sharp strike – especially around the inscriptions and Liberty’s headdress. The coin’s eye appeal has even earned it a sticker of approval from Rick Snow, a nationally known expert on Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents and owner/operator of Eagle Eye Rare Coins.
As for other examples of similar quality, PCGS reports a total of 43 graded MS-66 RD, with six coins graded higher: three at 66+ RD and three graded MS-67 RD. NGC reports only 27 specimens graded MS-66 RD, with two higher at 66+ RD and three coins graded 67 RD. Neither service lists any examples graded 67+ RD or above.
The record price at auction for an MS-66 RD 1864 Bronze Indian cent is $9,600 USD, which was achieved by a PCGS-graded example at the August 2018 ANA sale. Otherwise, PCGS prices from earlier that year and over the last half decade tend to hover in the $2,500-$3,000 range. NGC-graded examples, meanwhile, have consistently sold for between $1,000 and $1,500 over the last 10 years.
Indian Head Cents
The Indian cent, or Indian Head cent, was designed by James B. Longacre, Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from the latter part of 1844 to the beginning of 1869. The series ran for 50 years, from 1859 to 1909.
At first, the issue managed to escape the hoarding of coins that came with the Civil War, but by 1862, in spite of the production of millions of the coins, the cent also disappeared from circulation, joining the silver and gold coins already in hiding. In the absence of federal coinage, private businesses issued cent-sized bronze tokens that redeemable for services and merchandise. In 1864, Mint officials revised the Indian cent, copying the look and feel of these popular and readily accepted tokens.
The design was basically the same, but the composition changed from copper-nickel to bronze (copper, tin, and zinc). Though the copper content was higher, increasing from 88% to 95%, the cent no longer contained the expensive nickel alloy, which likely contributed to the hoarding of the early 1860s. The bronze cent was also darker in color because of the higher copper content, about a gram and a half lighter, less expensive to make, and easier to strike because the coins no longer contained the hard nickel metal.
The public accepted the new cents, which finally began to freely circulate.
Cents with both copper-nickel and bronze were produced in 1864, but nearly three times more of the new bronze cents were made. Only two issues of the Indian Head series, 1877-P and 1909-S saw production drop below one million coins, and in 1907 over 100 million pieces were produced.
Liberty’s face on the Indian Head cent is similar to Longacre’s 1854 three dollar gold piece, and also bears resemblance to his 1849 gold one dollar and double eagle Liberty portraits. Wearing a beaded necklace, Liberty faces left. On her head is a nine-feathered Indian war bonnet with a band displaying LIBERTY. Locks of hair drape down the back, and one end of the diamond-patterned headband curls slightly to the front, with the other end somewhat hidden between the hair and the bottom feather. Early 1864 bronze cents had the rounded tip of the bust as on the copper-nickel issues, but later coins for 1864 and all subsequent years have a pointed bust tip and a small L (for Longacre, sometimes hard to see because of wear) in the lower part of the smaller ribbon to the back. UNITED STATES follows along a denticled border to the left, OF AMERICA along the right. The date is at the bottom.
The reverse has a concentric two-part wreath inside a denticled rim, tied together at the bottom by a ribbon that also binds three arrows. The wreath is mostly composed of oak leaves with acorns, though another type of leaf is shown at the bottom on the left side. The top ends of the wreath separate to allow for the placement of a small Union shield, and ONE CENT is prominently displayed in the center of the flan. Circulation bronze Indian Head cents, as well as proof issues, were produced every year in Philadelphia, and at San Francisco in 1908 and 1909.