Coin Resource Center Includes Entry On Key Date 1877 Indian Head Cent

Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Coin Resource Center is an evolving database, with new entries on a wide range of U.S. coins and other areas of numismatic interest. Key dates were an early emphasis for the database when it launched last year; this week, we’ll be taking a look at the CRC entry on famous key date small cent, the 1877 Indian Head.

As the Civil War-era coin shortage began to ease, public demand for new Indian Head cents declined. Legal tender limits imposed when bronze cents were introduced during the war coupled with restrictions on the number of bronze cents the government could redeem resulted in large stocks of unused cents accumulating in bank vaults.

Responding to these growing stockpiles, in 1871 Congress included language in the Mint Act of that year authorizing the Mint to redeem the base-metal cents in larger quantities, melt them down, and strike new coins from the recovered metal. The Mint modified this practice in 1874, authorizing the reissuance of redeemed cents. As the U.S. economy faltered in the mid-1870s, large quantities of cents reentered circulation, further decreasing demand. In 1877, these two factors converged, resulting in the first key date Indian Head cent; the Mint reissued more than nine million cents and only struck 852,500 that year. This relatively small mintage, which would ultimately be the series’ second-smallest (for points of comparison, the Mint struck more than 38 million cents in 1880 and the peak of the series in 1907 was more than 100 million), makes the 1877 one of the series’ three key dates, alongside the branch mint 1908-S and 1909-S. Mintages from the late 1860s through the late 1870s are generally smaller than the earlier and later periods in the series.

For collectors interested in forming a full date set of Indian Head cents, acquiring an 1877 in any grade is an accomplishment and collector demand is significant.  

(The third edition of Rick Snow’s Flying Eagle & Indian Cents Attribution Guide is a useful resource for those interested in the first half century of small cents.)

Like other series covered in the CRC, the listings for Indian Head cents are broken down into subtypes by composition and strike. The 1859 Laurel Wreath copper-nickel cent, the 1860-1864 Oak Wreath copper nickel cents, and the 1864-1909 Oak Wreath bronze cents each represent a distinct subtype. These, in turn, are broken down in circulation strike and Proof finishes. The 1877 is a circulation strike of the third subtype.

The CRC entry on 1877 Indian cents includes high-quality images and links to recent auction appearances and Coins in Motion animations, like other CRC listings

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