Indian Head Cent (1859-1909)

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Indian sketch.jpgIndian cent wax model.jpg

Longacre's original sketch (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian), Original wax model (National Numismaic Collection, Smithsonian)

The Indian Head design is actually Lady Liberty wearing a native American headdress. James B. Longacre designed the motif with the intent to show that Liberty, in the American sense, was best portrayed by the freedom of the American Indian. It is ironic that during the time the Indian Cent was minted, The American Indians thenselves went from a free-ranging horse culture civilization in much of the Western United States to being segregated and forced to live on reservations on some of the most inhospitable lands in the nation.

Obverse types

Pointed Bust: Sharp details, narrow bust point. 1859-1860. Very few 1858 Indian Head patterns.

Rounded Bust: Details less sharp. Wider bust point. No L on ribbon. 1860-1864. Most 1858 Indian Head patterns.

With L on Ribbon, Type 1: Narrow bust point. L on ribbon. Last feather points between the I & C in AMERICA. 1864-1886.

Type 2: Last feather points between the C & A in AMERICA. 1886-1909. This was a redesign by Charles Barber

Reverse Types

Laurel (olive) Wreath: 1859. Very few 1858 patterns.

Oak Wreath and shield. Normal N: 1860-1862

Shallow N: 1863-1872, 1877 The N in ONE was made shallow to better strike up the obverse on the hard CN planchets.

Bold N: 1870-1909 This was a redesign by William Barber


The dates were punched into each die until 1908. Many repunched date varieties exist. Doubled dies do not affect the date on these coins. In 1909 only, the date was on the master die. These and other premium value varieties are listed in The Flying Eagle and Indian Cent Attribution Guide, By Richard Snow.


I noticed a coin on Ebay listed as a 1877 Indian Cent "Fine" condition" ! What I saw was a Fake 1877 Indian Cent with the last Feather on the Headdress pointing between the "C and A" in the word AMERICA. A REAL 1877 points between the "I and the C" of the word AMERICA. Beware of Fakes!!!