Indian Head Cent, Copper-Nickel (1860-1864)

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Indian Head Cent, Copper-Nickel (1860-1864)


The 1859 cents with the Indian design on the obverse and the laurel wreath motif on the reverse were produced for only this one year, as circumstances unfolded. On December 13, 1859, Mint Director James Ross Snowden advised the secretary of the Treasury as follows:

"A modification of the devices on the reverse of the cent is desirable. I propose to introduce the shield upon the reverse. This will give it a more National character, and be a decided improvement upon the present coin. I enclose a few specimen pieces I have caused to be struck..."

In the following year, 1860, a new reverse embodying an oak wreath surmounted by a shield was adopted. Striking of Indian cents on thick copper-nickel planchets continued through early 1864. Production was fairly generous through the span, and ranged from a high of 49,840,000 business strikes in 1863, to a low of 10,100,000 in 1861. The high mintage of 1863 is explained by the extreme shortage of circulating coinage at the time, due to hoarding by private citizens who were unsure as to the Civil War's outcome.

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