Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - Inception

The Indian Head Cent made is debut, saturating U.S. cities with copper coins.

1859 Indian Head Penny

Production of the Indian Head cent began in 1859. The new pennies differed slightly from the 1858 pattern coin which had the laurel leaves in the reverse wreath in bunches of five leaves. The 1859 cent had them in bunches of six. Cents dated 1858 with the adopted reverse (with six-leaf bunches) are known, were most likely struck in 1859, and are extremely rare.

In 1860, the reverse of the cent was changed to feature an oak wreath and a narrow shield; such reverses are also known on 1859-dated pieces struck as patterns. According to Richard Snow in his guide book to Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents, this was not due to problems with the "Laurel Wreath" reverse design used in 1859, as full details survive on many extant pieces. Walter Breen, however, suggested that the feathers and curls on the obverse did not strike as well as they would later, and that, "This may account for Snowden's decision to change the design again". David Lange, in his history of the Mint, states that it was to give the coin, quoting Snowden, "More national character". All 1859 cents and some from 1860 have the cutoff of Liberty's bust on the obverse end with a point; most 1860 cents and all later issues have it rounded.

Tens of millions of Flying Eagle cents had been issued in exchange for the old American coppers and small Spanish silver. The Spanish silver was still flowing into the Mint in early 1859 and, at Snowden's urging, Congress extended the redemption of these foreign coins, legal tender in the US until 1857, for another two years. Neil Carothers, in his work on small-denomination currency, challenged this decision as unnecessary—deprived of legal tender status, the remaining Spanish silver would have been eliminated through sales to banks for their bullion. Those who brought the old coins to the Mint received cents for them, at first Flying Eagle, and then Indian Head. In the year following the renewal, some forty million Indian Head cents were issued, meaning nearly a hundred million copper-nickel cents had entered commerce since 1857. As the coin did not circulate in the South and West, due to prejudice against base-metal money, they choked commerce. No one had to take them; no law made them legal tender. Nevertheless, as Snowden admitted in his annual report that year, there were too many cents in circulation. In October 1860, The Bankers' Magazine and Statistical Register reported that there were ten million cents in commerce in New York City above what was needed, and if anyone wished to order in bulk, they could be purchased at a discount.

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Photo courtesy of Coin HELP!
Brief history of IHC from Wikipedia - Used under CC BY-SA license

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