James Barton Longacre designed the Indian Head Cent in 1859. The coin had the representation of Liberty wearing an Indian headdress on the obverse, and a laurel wreath on the reverse along with the inscription ONE CENT. This cent underwent some changes along the years. Its reverse showed an oak wreath with a small shield later in 1859. Then, the “Copper-Nickel Indian With Shield” came along having two obverse hubs - the earlier sharp pointed bust and the later rounded tip to bust. The later was issued until 1864. The Bronze Era for Indian cents followed. The earlier Bronze Indian Cents had rounded tip to bust and no engraver’s initial. Later cents showed a narrower and sharper bust and Longacre’s initial L on the ribbon behind the neck – the famous 1864-L penny. The L continued to appear on cents until 1909. Composition: copper-nickel.
Mint director James Ross Snowden directed James Barton Longacre to prepare some cent designs that would replace the Flying Eagle cent in 1859. Apparently, Snowden chose the design that featured the “Indian” head / laurel wreath combination because it showed the lowest relief and the best strike. Therefore, the first year of the Indian cent had the representation of Liberty wearing an Indian headdress on the obverse and a laurel wreath on the reverse, along with the inscription ONE CENT.
Regarding what inspired Longacre for his design, the issue is controversial. Many believed in the legend that the model was Longacre’s own daughter Sarah, sketched while playing. Another inspiration was thought to be Venus Accroupie. Longacre mentioned her in his letters specifically for her long “Greek” nose. Whoever the inspiration was, Longacre left a masterpiece for American coin history and coin collectors.
During the Civil War, many coins including the copper-nickel cent disappeared from circulation. To replace the missing cents, merchants issued copper tokens. Towards the end of the Civil War, the government had to do something to replace the illegal tokens. Also, it was expensive to make nickel cents and they were difficult to melt and work with. For these reasons, in 1864, the new Mint Director James Pollock - a bitter opponent of nickel - convinced the government to pass a bill to authorize cent and 2cent coinage in “French bronze.” Thus the Bronze Era for cents came into existence and replaced the tokens.
In 1873, former Mint Director Snowden complained that the “closed 3” of 1873 can be mistaken for an 8. Therefore, Pollock issued new “open 3” cents for all denominations. That’s how we have the popular 1873 Indian cent with “closed 3” and “open 3.” The first San Francisco cents appeared in November of 1908.
Buy Indian Head Cents from the Executive Coin Company, one of the top coin dealers in the United States. We offer a variety of Indian Cents for sale in different grades: circulated, uncirculated, certified and graded by PCGS, NGC and ANACS. Our wide selection includes the 1860 pointed bust Indian cent, the 1864 copper-nickel penny, and 1873 penny with Open 3. The 1877 key date, the 1886 Type 1 Indian cent, the 1908-S and 1909-S key dates and many other dates with errors and die breaks. All coins for sale are expertly photographed with great care and accuracy to help you make the best choice for your coin collection!