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Indian Head Penny: Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties

Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties for Indian Head Cents

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When it comes to Indian Head Penny key dates, rarities and varieties, a small difference on a coin can result in a large difference in the value. Listed below are the key dates and varieties for the Indian Head cents that were minted from 1859 to 1909. Read the descriptions carefully and study the photos to see if your Indian Head penny is worth more that the common variety. You can click on the photos to see a larger and more detailed image.

1864 Indian Head Cent Copper/Nickel vs. Bronze

1864 Indian Head Cent Copper/Nickel vs. Bronze Variety
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In 1859 when Indian head cents were first made, they were composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. In 1864 the U.S. Mint stopped using nickel in the production of Indian head pennies and changed to a bronze composition consisting of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc. Over 13 million 1864 dated pennies were minted using the copper and nickel composition. Over 39 million 1864 dated coins were made with the bronze composition. The copper/nickel coins have a slightly silver-ish color to them while the bronze coins have a deeper orange color. Circulated bronze coins have a brown patina to them while the copper nickel coins retain some of their silver color.

Tip: Click on the image to the left to open up another window with a larger more detailed photo.

1864 Indian Head Penny: No "L" on Ribbon

1864 Indian Head Cent No "L" on Ribbon Variety
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There are two varieties of the bronze 1864 Indian Head penny. The first variety has a plain ribon tail behind the neck where the headband meets the curls of hair. Another indicator for this variety is the tip of the bust is more rounded than on the variety with the "L".

1864 Indian Head Penny: "L" on Ribbon

1864 Indian Head Cent "L" on Ribbon Variety
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Later in 1864 an "L" was added to the ribbon and this resulted in another variety of the 1864 Indian Head penny. The small "L" is located on the ribbon behind the neck where the headband meets the curls of hair. This "L" is the designer's (James B. Longacre) last initial. You can also look at the tip of the bust which is more pointed on this variety than the variety without the "L" on the ribbon.

1869 Indian Head Penny: 9 Over 9 Variety

1869 Indian Head Cent 9 Over 9 Variety
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While producing the dies for the 1869 Indian head cent, a production problem occurred that resulted in a doubled die. The doubling is most noticeable on the last two digits of the date, "69". Look above the two numerals for a "shadow" of the two numbers. Click on the photo to the left to see a larger image illustrating what to look for.

1873 Indian Head Penny: Open 3 Variety

1873 Indian Head Cent Open 3 Variety
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While engraving the date on the die at the mint, two different varieties of the "3" were used. The first variety has a three in the date that is more open as indicated by the distance between the ends of the loops in the numeral.

1873 Indian Head Penny: Closed 3 Variety

1873 Indian Head Cent Closed 3 Variety
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The second variety of the 1873 dated Indian head penny has a "3" in the date that is more closed when compared to the open "3" variety as illustrated above.

1873 Indian Head Penny: Doubled LIBERTY Variety

1873 Indian Head Cent Doubled LIBERTY on Headband Variety
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Another production error in 1873 resulted in a doubled die variety. This is most noticeable on the word "LIBERTY" on the Indian's headband. Doubling can also be seen on the hairline and the eye. This variety is valuable in any grade.

1877 Indian Head Penny: Key Date

1877 Indian Head Cent Key Date
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Although not an error or variety, the 1877 Indian Head cent had an extremely low mintage of only 852,500 coins. This has made it a key date and one of the most valuable coins in the series.

1886 Indian Head Penny: Type 1 or Variety I

1886 Indian Head Cent Type 1 Variety
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A change in production in 1886 resulted in two different types of Indian Head cents being produced. The first one known as "Type I" has the last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligning with the lower curl on the Indian's bust. Compare the image on the left to the image for "Type II" below.

1886 Indian Head Penny: Type 2 or Variety II

1886 Indian Head Cent Type 2 Variety
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The second variety of 1886 Indian Head cents has the last letter in the word "AMERICA" aligning more to the right of the lower curl on the Indian's bust. Compare the image on the left for "Type II" to the image displayed above for the "Type I" variety.

1888 Indian Head Penny: Last 8 Over 7 Variety

1888 Indian Head Cent Last 8 Over 7 Variety
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Although somewhat controversial, it is believed that an 1887 Indian Head cent hub was reuse to produce the 1888 Indian head cents. The lower part of the last in the date (the "7") can still be seen sticking out from the lower left corner of the "8". Click on the picture to the left to see a larger more detailed photo of this variety.

1909-S Indian Head Penny: Key Date

1909-S Indian Head Cent Key Date
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In 1909 the Lincoln cent design replaced the Indian Head penny. But not until almost 300,000 Indian Head cents were produced at the San Francisco mint. This extremely low mintage makes this another key for the Indian Head cent series.

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