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United States Indian Head Coins

The Indian head cent was a popular penny that ran from 1859 to 1909. Prior to the Indian head, pennies were either much larger or much thicker. The Indian head was the first penny design that displayed roughly modern proportions. The flying eagle penny prior to the Indian head proved to be very problematic to strike well, influencing the mint director to choose a design based upon the ease of its minting as opposed to the design itself.

One of the most incongruous aspects of this design was the Indian head obverse. Although chief engraver James Longacre, who was responsible for the design, defended his choices, the fact that the obverse featured the female Liberty wearing a headdress that was reserved for male warriors in Native American culture was not missed. The coin's size and functionality was popular, but the obverse's strange juxtaposition was met with criticism. Interestingly, the same visual marriage of female bust and male headdress was revisited by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in his eagle design from 1907 to 1916.

The Indian head cent's demise came at the hands of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a mission to beautify America's coinage, enlisting the aid of private sculptors. This led him to work with Saint-Gaudens, who was hired to create new designs for each denomination. Saint-Gaudens was terminally ill, however, and only had a chance to submit one potential design for the cent, which was rejected because cents cannot legally depict an eagle due to 1873 legislation. This led President Roosevelt to instead honor President Lincoln on the centennial of his birth. The new Lincoln cent and the Indian head penny were minted side by side in 1909, marking the end of the Indian head's exclusive 50-year run.


Quick Facts

  • The record auction for an Indian head cent is held by an 1859 double-obverse error sold for $195,000 in 2008. The highest non-error example is an 1864 proof, which hit $161,000 in 2012
  • Some 1875 Indian head cents have a small dot added by the letter N in the word ONE on the reverse. It is speculated that this was added at the Mint as a way to catch a thief on staff
  • The closed 3 Indian head is desirable to collectors. Complaints were aired early in 1873 that the 3 in the date looked too much like an 8. The error was fixed, resulting in both closed 3 and open 3 varieties

Recommended Items at Auction

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LOT OF 19 ASSORTED FLYING EAGLE & INDIAN HEAD CENTS
Jun 23, 9:00 AM MST
LOT OF 19 ASSORTED FLYING EAGLE & INDIAN HEAD CENTS
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$657 Bids
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LOT OF 315 ASSORTED INDIAN HEAD CENTS
Jun 23, 9:00 AM MST
LOT OF 315 ASSORTED INDIAN HEAD CENTS
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$1806 Bids
1895 & 1896 Indian Head Penny, Over 1 Century Old!
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1895 & 1896 Indian Head Penny, Over 1 Century Old!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$45 Bids
1880, 1881, 1882, 1883 Indian Head Cents
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1880, 1881, 1882, 1883 Indian Head Cents
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$85 Bids
1873 ($30 at G) Indian Head Penny, 151 Years Old!
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1873 ($30 at G) Indian Head Penny, 151 Years Old!
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$74 Bids
1863 Indian Head Cent- Civil War Date
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1863 Indian Head Cent- Civil War Date
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$74 Bids
1863 Indian Head Cent
Jul 01, 5:00 PM EDT
1863 Indian Head Cent
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$54 Bids
1890 INDIAN HEAD CENT - INDIAN HEAD PENNY
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
1890 INDIAN HEAD CENT - INDIAN HEAD PENNY
by Simonetta Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$54 Bids
1874 + 1875 Indian Head Cents
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1874 + 1875 Indian Head Cents
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$64 Bids
1864 Indian Head Cent- Civil War Date
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1864 Indian Head Cent- Civil War Date
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$64 Bids
1907, 1908, 1909 Indian Head Cents
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1907, 1908, 1909 Indian Head Cents
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$64 Bids
Group of Indian Head Pennies
Jul 11, 11:00 AM EDT
Group of Indian Head Pennies
by Bodnar's Auction Sales
Est: $75- $150
$603 Bids
(50) Indian Head Cents
Jun 22, 9:30 AM EDT
(50) Indian Head Cents
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$503 Bids
1880, 1889, 1897, 1897 Indian Head Cents (1 flip labeled incorrectly)
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1880, 1889, 1897, 1897 Indian Head Cents (1 flip labeled incorrectly)
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$13 Bids
1861, 1863, 1865 Indian Head Cents
Jul 01, 5:00 PM EDT
1861, 1863, 1865 Indian Head Cents
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$22 Bids
1886 Indian Head Cent PGA MS64 RED Type 2
Jun 20, 5:00 PM CDT
1886 Indian Head Cent PGA MS64 RED Type 2
by Gold Standard Auctions
Est: $175- $10,000
$1702 Bids
1872 Indian Head Cent CLOSELY UNCIRCULATED
Jun 19, 5:00 PM CDT
1872 Indian Head Cent CLOSELY UNCIRCULATED
by Gold Standard Auctions
Est: $255- $10,000
$2502 Bids
1874 Indian Head Cent Semi-Key Date
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1874 Indian Head Cent Semi-Key Date
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$22 Bids
10 Assorted Indian Head Cents
Jun 18, 5:00 PM EDT
10 Assorted Indian Head Cents
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$22 Bids
Neat Collection of Indian Head Cents From 1859-1909 in 2 Albums
Jul 01, 5:00 PM EDT
Neat Collection of Indian Head Cents From 1859-1909 in 2 Albums
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$12 Bids
1900 Indian Head Cent. HIGH Grade
Jun 25, 5:00 PM EDT
1900 Indian Head Cent. HIGH Grade
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$11 Bid
1893 Indian Head Cent AU/BU Better Date
Jun 25, 5:00 PM EDT
1893 Indian Head Cent AU/BU Better Date
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$11 Bid
1904 Indian Head Cent Coins
Jun 22, 12:00 PM EDT
1904 Indian Head Cent Coins
by Main Auction Galleries
Est: $20- $40
$101 Bid
1889 Indian Head Penny - Better Grade - Visible Liberty
Jun 25, 5:00 PM EDT
1889 Indian Head Penny - Better Grade - Visible Liberty
by Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer
Est: $1- $5,000
$11 Bid

Sellers Who Sell United States Indian Head Coins


Gold Standard Auctions

Gold Standard Auctions

Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer

Richard L. Edwards Auctioneer

Noonans Mayfair

Noonans Mayfair