Sunday, September 15, 2013

Indian Head Cents - How to Grade and Buy

by Jack Chapman

The Indian Head Cent, or penny is one of the first coins I started collecting as a kid. These pieces of American history are considered to be favorites with numismatics worldwide. These U.S. Coins started their initial run in 1859 and ended in 1909 giving way to the Lincoln Cent that we still use in commerce today.

Each year the Philadelphia Mint produced the coins. However the San Francisco Mint also minted these pennies in 1908 and 1909.

The Indian Head Cent was designed by James Longacre an engraver at the U.S. Mint. The obverse of the coin (heads) features a Native American Indian wearing a headband with the words LIBERTY on it. The letters in the word LIBERTY are very useful when grading these coins. The outer edges of the coin have the words United States of America and the year of issue. The reverse of the coin (tails) side had two designs.

The first design latest only one year, 1859. It featured a laurel wreath with the words ONE CENT inside of it.

In 1860 the reverse design was changed to an oak wreath and a shield with the words ONE CENT still inside.

For the first six years the pennies had a metal composition that was 88% copper and 12% nickel. Then in 1864 it was changed to 95% and 5% tin and zinc.

Grading Indian Head Cents

These are the basic guidelines when grading Indian Head Cents. Grading is subjective and at times a coin may be graded differently by different people. 

Good Condition (G4) - No letters in the word LIBERTY are visible.
Very Good (VG7) -  At least three letters in LIBERTY are visible.
Fine (F12) - All of the letters in LIBERTY are visible.
Very Fine (VF20) - There is slight, buy even wear on the letters in LIBERTY.
Extra Fine (EF40) - All letters in LIBERTY are sharp as well as are the details in the coin. There is just slight wear on the ribbon ends on the reverse.
Almost Uncirculated (AU50) - Minor traces of wear above the ear and lowest curls of the hair.
Brilliant Uncirculated (MS60) - No traces of wear, though there may be some blemishes on the coin.

Where to Buy Indian Head Cents

You can purchase these coins at any local coin dealer in your town, or you can buy them online. We do sell these coins ourselves and have all of the years and most of the grades in stock at U.S. State Don't let our name fool you, as we carry thousands of properly graded U.S. coins.

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