United States 1901 Indian Head Cent

With the opening of their brand-new facility at 1700 Spring Garden Street, 1901 was a big year for the United States Mint in Philadelphia. This new facility afforded the Mint a much larger production capacity through massive upgrades in equipment. Most importantly, all aspects of the production line would now be powered by electricity, and not steam.

This increase in capacity was much needed since the US had recovered from the panic of 1893 which forced the mint to dramatically reduce the mintages of cents several years prior. Yet now, the economy was healthy and there was an ever-increasing demand for cent coins. This demand was fueled mainly by the proliferation of coin-operated machines. America received its first coin-operated vending machines from the Thomas Adams Gum Company in 1888. While today it would seem strange, these early machines accepted one-cent coins. Unlike today, in 1901, a penny had the same purchasing power as 35 modern cents.

Despite this dramatic increase in demand, production of the one-cent coin was still limited to the Mint facility in Philadelphia and it wouldn’t be until five years later in 1906 that this restriction was removed. All of these coins were needed by the economy, and the 1901 Indian Head cent represented the largest mintage of any coin by the US Mint up to that date.

The 1901 Indian Head Cent in Today’s Market

Like all modern(ish) copper coins, pieces vary greatly in value due to their color designation.

Auction records for Red (RD) and Red Brown (RB) examples graded as MS 67 average $8,000 and $1,400 USD, respectively. MS 66 RD examples sell for an average of $1,400 and RB examples are worth much less at around $450 to $500, and Brown (BN) specimens sell for approximately $400. In MS 65, while BN examples are worth between $150 and $200, the RB designation provides a small bump to between $200 and $240, and RD provides a large increase of 150% to 200%, pushing the value to approximately $500 to $600. For MS 64, the price really begins to fall, with RD and RB examples are worth $200 to $300, and BN sell reliably for $100 to $150.

Examples in MS 63 are relatively similarly priced regardless of color designation, with BN pieces worth $60 to $100, RBs between $80 and $100, and RDs $100 to $150. In MS 62, RD examples sell for $50, for $50 to $80 in RB, and $35 to $60 in BN. The graded and certified population for all color designations drops off after MS 62 due to the fact that the submission price for grading starts to exceed the value of the coin in the low MS grades. While there are no RD examples graded lower than MS 62, MS 61s are worth $25 to $30 in RB and BN.

Due to the impact of circulation wear on the color of copper coins, there are only BN examples in grades lower than Mint State. AU examples are worth between $20 to $25. For grades below AU, the price drops to $15 in XF 45, $10 in VF 30, and $1 to $3 in the lowest grades.

Design

Obverse:

The Indian Head cent was designed by James B. Longacre, who is perhaps best known for this coin. Longacre was skilled as both a portraitist and engraver, and he was serving as the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint when he designed the Indian Head cent, first issued in 1859. Despite appearances, the Native American on the obverse is actually an effigy of Lady Liberty, albeit with a supposedly native headdress. Numismatic lore suggests that Longacre based the design on a sketch of his 12-year-old daughter. By most accounts, however – including those of Longacre himself – the model was none other than Crouching Venus, a Greco-Roman statue on loan from the Vatican that was on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the late 1850s.

The obverse of the Indian Head cent shows a leftward-facing bust of Miss Liberty adorned in a feathered headdress representative of Native American culture. The headdress includes ornate ribbons, including a large ribbon at the base of the headdress below the feathers over Liberty’s forehead that is inscribed with the word LIBERTY. A smaller ribbon drapes down the back of Miss Liberty’s neck and is laced with a diamond pattern. Another segment of ribbon located deeper in Liberty’s lower hair detail gained more numismatic significance in 1864, when it received the initial “L” for Longacre. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is inscribed in the field along the obverse rim, and the date 1901 sits at the bottom center of the obverse directly under Liberty’s neck.

Reverse:

The reverse of the 1901 Indian Head cent features an oak wreath with a Union shield at the top center of the field. The wreath encircles the denomination ONE CENT, which is expressed in two lines of text at the center of the reverse. Since this coin was struck in Philadelphia, there is no mintmark.

Edge:

The edge of the 1901 Indian Head cent is smooth, without inscription.

Designer

James Barton Longacre (1794-1869) was one of the most famous US engravers and medallic artists of the 19th century. Longacre was appointed the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint by President John Tyler after the third chief engraver, Christian Gobrecht, died in 1844. Before this appointment, Longacre worked for the Philadelphia engraving company Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co. until he began working for himself in 1819. As an independent engraver, Longacre produced a series of famous plates that featured the Founding Fathers, President Andrew Jackson, and Senator John C. Calhoun. Once he became chief engraver at the Mint, he produced such famous pieces as the Flying Eagle cent, the Shield nickel, and the Coronet Head double eagle.

Coin Specifications

Country:  United States
Year Of Issue:  1901
Denomination:  One Cent
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage:  79,609,158
Alloy:  95% Copper, 5% Zinc and Tin
Weight:  3.11 grams
Diameter:  19.00 mm
OBV Designer  James Barton Longacre
REV Designer  James Barton Longacre
Quality:  Business Strike

 


 

6 COMMENTS

  1. I think I have a Indian headset that’s a 1902 over a 1901 and I would love to send you a picture of it if you’re interested in that just let me know thank you

    • My advice would be to have the coin examined in person by a dealer who’s certified by one of the big grading services rather that trying to rely on a photo. If the coin does appear to be a double strike or recut die it can be submitted to one of those services for more-thorough examination.

  2. I got some grandpa gave me. There two rolls of 1877 and 1878 are they any good. He gave me some dollars too but they seem too small to me. Anybody know about old coins I need to sell em since gas has went up.

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