Value & History for Metal Detecting the Indian Head Penny

Indian Head Penny Metal Detecting

Indian Head Cent, Indian Head Penny, IHP, IHC, or whatever else you call them it is likely you know one when you see it. The Indian Head Cent is a lovely coin that pre-dates any living being on this planet now, having been produced from the years 1859 through 1909. To some, it is just another penny, and to those who know the value, it is a true treasure to be found when metal detecting. 

The History of the Indian Head Cent

When you first lay eyes on this one-cent coin you are drawn to the Native American featured on the front, commonly known as the obverse side, of the currency.  Many are unaware it is actually Lady Liberty in a feathered headdress. Opinions vary as to why James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver of the Philadelphia Mint who designed this coin with Lady Liberty, portrayed her in this manner and it is all speculation at this point. 

The reverse, or back, of the Indian Head Penny was originally struck in 1859 with a wreath of two laurel branches surrounding the words ‘One Cent’, which was replaced in 1860 with two oak branches with a shield at the top middle instead of the laurel.

There were no mint marks on IHP’s until 1908 and 1909 when the San Francisco Mint began producing them due to an increase in their transportation fares from five to six cents. Two of the more collectible Indian Head Cents are the 1908-S and 1909-S due to their ‘S’ mint mark, the low number minted of the latter, and the introduction of the Lincoln Wheat Cent in 1909.  

The metal composition of these coins changed over their fifty-year run as well. The original composition of these pennies was copper-nickel from 1859-1864 and in 1864 they were converted over to bronze. 

Finding The Value of Indian Head Cents

As with any collectible coin, there are standards that determine overall value such as condition, Mint mark, rarity, and many other factors. Numismatists, or coin enthusiasts, look for certain coins of a series that are considered key date or semi-key date coins. Key date coins are the most valued and rarest of a series. For example, the key dates Indian Head Cents collectors yearn for are  1909-S and 1877. The 1877 one-cent was minted with lower numbers similar to the 1909-S. The world economy was dealing with the post-war Panic of 1873 which was a long depression that ended in 1877.  In order to cut costs, the Mint had begun reissuing older coins they had restruck with the current year’s date which contributed to the reduced number of coins the Mint had to strike new and also reduced the number of older Indian Head Pennies in circulation as well. 

The 1877 Indian Head Cent is the most sought after by metal detecting hobbyists and coin collectors of the IHC series, but there are errors and changes to others that help to add more than the one-cent face value to these coins. When there are production errors or flaws it can increase the values of coins as well. Alterations like the 1864 penny have a hidden letter ‘L’ on Liberty’s ribbon, variations such as a closed or open ‘3’ on the bronze 1873 coin, or worn die errors with different letters on the coin. None of the flaws or variants are as valuable as the 1877 Indian Head Penny which currently sells for thousands of dollars, but others in the series are worth anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on the condition of the coin and variant or error factors. 

You can metal detect a lot of valuable coins. In order to find the coin’s true value then it would be wise to refer to a few different sources. Not eBay. They are not experts of value.  Research the coin in question and learn about errors and anything you can to identify your specific coin. Books like The Official Red Book series are incredibly helpful as well.  You can search for a reputable coin dealer who does evaluations to take it to and if it is indeed a valuable or key-date coin, then sending it to a professional coin grading service company is the best option for preservation and value. 

In conclusion, I will always have a special place in my heart for old pennies. When I was a little girl I collected Lincoln Wheat Cents and Indian Head Cents with my grandpa. He had a huge jar of them he kept on his dresser. I can only imagine what was hiding in that jar that has since been lost to time. As a fellow metal detecting enthusiast, I can honestly say I always enjoy unearthing Indian Head Cents and even wheat pennies. Though they may seem like just another penny they are truly a piece of American History. Happy hunting.

1859 Indian Head Penny$15$25$110$200
1860 Indian Head Penny$10$20$65$100
1861 Indian Head Penny$25$45$110$175
1862 Indian Head Penny$10$20$50$75
1863 Indian Head Penny$10$20$50$75
1864 Indian Head Penny$20$40$100$150
1865 Indian Head Penny$15$25$45$65
1866 Indian Head Penny$50$80$190$250
1867 Indian Head Penny$50$90$230$275
1868 Indian Head Penny$40$70$170$220
1869 Indian Head Penny$85$235$445$550
1870 Indian Head Penny$80$220$400$500
1871 Indian Head Penny$130$325$575$650
1872 Indian Head Penny$100$370$575$700
1873 Indian Head Penny$25$65$185$1235
1874 Indian Head Penny$20$45$100$150
1875 Indian Head Penny$20$60$120$160
1876 Indian Head Penny$35$70$225$240
1877 Indian Head Penny$900$1,550$2,500$3,000
1878 Indian Head Penny$35$60$200$275
1879 Indian Head Penny$8$20$70$80
1880 Indian Head Penny$5$9$30$60
1881 Indian Head Penny$5$8$25$35
1882 Indian Head Penny$5$8$25$35
1883 Indian Head Penny$5$8$25$35
1884 Indian Head Penny$5$10$27$40
1885 Indian Head Penny$815$65$80
1886 Indian Head Penny$6$20$140$175
1887 Indian Head Penny$3$5$18$28
1888 Indian Head Penny$3$5$22$27
1889 Indian Head Penny$3$5$18$30
1890 Indian Head Penny$3$5$16$30
1891 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$30
1892 Indian Head Penny$3$5$20$30
1893 Indian Head Penny$3$5$20$30
1894 Indian Head Penny$5$15$50$70
1895 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$25
1896 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$25
1897 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$25
1898 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$25
1899 Indian Head Penny$3$5$15$25
1900 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1901 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1902 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1903 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1904 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1905 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1906 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1907 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1908 Indian Head Penny$2$5$10$20
1908 Indian Head Penny (S)$90$125$175$250
1909 Indian Head Penny$12$17$25$30
1909 Indian Head Penny (S)$450$600$750$850
Source: Red Book

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