The first Indian Head Penny was struck by the U.S. Mint in 1859 and was the first regular-issue small-size Penny coin. (The short-lived 1856-1858 Flying Eagle Penny was technically an experimental coin.) From 1859-1864, the coin was struck in copper-nickel; all later coins were struck in bronze. The coin offered here is the scarce and historic copper-nickel issue that is at least 140 years old. It was struck during the Civil War years and is highly sought-after both for its status as the first Indian Head Penny and as a genuine artifact from the Civil War era.
The Indian Head Penny depicts Lady Liberty dressed as an Indian princess in a war bonnet. It was one of the first U.S. coins to feature a Native American. The word “Liberty” is inscribed in the headband of the bonnet. According to legend, designer James B. Longacre actually used a portrait of his daughter, Sarah, wearing an Indian headdress. A delegation of Indian Chiefs visited the U.S. Mint on a day when Sarah was visiting her father. When one of the Chiefs placed his headdress on Sarah’s head, Longacre made a quick sketch and used it as the basis for his Indian Head Penny design.
The Indian side of this coin is a symbol of America’s westward expansion, as well as a moving tribute to Native Americans in U.S. history.
The reverse depicts an oak wreath and the Union shield. The first coins were struck as America prepared for the Civil War, and both the oak and the Union shield were symbols that the U.S. Government wanted unity, not war. Oak represents strength and civic glory, and on this coin the wreath symbolizes the power of the people. The Union shield indicates the strength of the unified nation – “E Pluribus Unum” (“out of many, one”).
The copper-nickel Indian Head Pennies disappeared from circulation well over a century ago, and all coins are cherished today. Very few have survived for today’s collectors, and this coin is prized by collectors everywhere. The total mintage of all copper-nickel Indian Head Pennies from 1859 to 1864 is about equal to the number of modern Lincoln Pennies struck every six days! And just a tiny fraction of the original coins have survived for today’s collectors. The coin in this collection is carefully hand-selected for exceptional collector quality and is displayed in a box with a Certificate of Authenticity. 2.5" x 2.5" x 1"