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Indian Head Cent

Longacre substitutes Indian Head designs for Flying Eagle

By Paul Gilkes – COIN WORLD Staff

Difficulty in modifying the Flying Eagle cent design to correct the problem of short die life and poor strikeability led Chief Engraver James Barton Longacre to abandon the eagle motif in favor of his new Indian Head design in 1859. The head and tail of the eagle on the obverse of the copper-nickel Flying Eagle cent were positioned directly opposite the wreath on the reverse, creating weakness in the detail of the design with every strike. The chief engraver had been in his position for more than a dozen years when he was given the assignment to fix the existing cent design or produce a new one. At the same time Longacre produced the Indian Head obverse, three new reverse designs were also tested. One alternative included a plain oak wreath. The second choice depicted an oak wreath with a wide ornamented shield above. A third selection offered two versions of a plain laurel wreath. One of the latter two variations – the centered laurel wreath with low relief – was paired with the obverse Indian Head design to strike the first coins for circulation in 1859. The hub style was changed from narrow bust point in 1860 to a broad bust point, possibly to increase die life. A new reverse was introduced in 1860 as well, depicting a shield between the points of a new, oak wreath. A year before the Civil War ended, Congress took action to alter the composition of the small cents since the nickel coinage metal was in – Click here to See more from Coin World’s article.

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