Indian Head Penny / Cent (1859-1909)
The Indian Head Penny also sometimes referred to as the Indian Head Cent by collectors is a copper coin that preceded the Wheat Penny and Lincoln Penny. Years minted 1859-1909
The front (obverse) of the coin contains the head of Lady Liberty wearing a chieftains headdress sometimes referred to as a war bonnet.
The rear (reverse) cointains a wreath and the words one cent as well as a shield on the top middle. The original 1959 release did not include the shield, but all other years do.
The face value of this coin is 1 cent. The chemical composition is 88% copper and 12% nickel from the years 1859-1864. The composition changes in 1965 95% copper, 5% tin (sometimes zinc was used in place of copper).
The coins are popular with those Native American heritage, and while just 2 million individuals are enrolled as members of a tribe, most people in the US today claim to be at least part Native American.
I remember fondly collecting the Indian Head Pennies and the Buffalo Nickels with my Grandmother who was 50% Cherokee. So on a personal note I love these coins, if for nothing else than their sentimental value.
As with most coins of this age the Indian Head Cent is worth many times more than it's face value indicates. Prices are well above the $10 mark for all of these coins (even in less than mint state) up until about 1879 at which time the minimum is still $1 to $3 on average. Point being..if you find one don't spend it at face value.
* Notice as of December 2006 it is illegal to melt down US Minted Pennies and Nickels, and there is a $10,000 fine to help enforce the law. It is legal however to melt down silver dollars, half dollars, dimes, quarters for their content.