The Indian head penny is one of the most famous and desired collectible coins among collectors and people who are dedicated to selling old coins.
This coin was minted from the year 1859 to 1909 and it is known that a total of 1,849,648,000 coins were minted.
In this article, we will talk about the Indian head pennies that were minted in 1899. There were a total of 53,598,000 minted coins and 2031 proof.
Despite being very popular among collectors, they do not have a very high value, but this makes them accessible to all who want to venture into the world of coin collectors.
Ready to become an expert on everything you need to know about the 1899 Indian head penny? Let’s get started!
1899 Indian Head Penny Details
These are the details you should know about the 1899 Indian Head Penny:
- Minted at: Philadelphia (No Mint Mark)
- Mintage: 53,598,000
- Designer – Engraver: James B Longacre
- Metal Composition: 95% Copper – 5% Tin and Zinc
- Diameter: 19 mm
- Mass / Weight: 3.11 grams
When it comes to collectible pennies, the Lincoln Wheat penny generally takes precedence over the Indian Head penny, but the truth is that it was a very highly rated coin and is considered a highly manufactured coin for today’s collectors.
In addition, the design of the Indian Head pennies was one of the sources of inspiration for the coins that would come in the future. Its simple design, which at the same time included elements of American history, inspired the design of the Lincoln Wheat penny that we all know.
James B. Longacre, the United States Mint’s official engraver, designed both the obverse and reverse of the coin.
There was no time gap between the design and the minting of the coin. This is how its production began in 1859 and received the nickname of Indian Head.
The coin circulated and was minted for fifty years until it was handed over to the Lincoln Wheat Penny.
Something curious about this coin is that the image on the obverse of the coin is not that of the head of an Indian, but rather the head of Lady Liberty, the same one that we can see on Morgan dollars, for example.
The difference is that they decided to dress Lady Liberty’s head in a feathered tiara, which the chiefs of the Native American tribes used to wear. It is said that this tiara was used to represent freedom, one of the fundamental pillars of the American nation.
They did not leave the message to interpretation and placed the word “LIBERTY” on the edge of the tiara.
But if we have to talk about the obverse of the coin, several interesting details have to do with its design.
Lady Liberty’s profile is said to have been based on the face of Longacre’s daughter. There is even a story that the designer of the coin was inspired by his daughter, one day when she visited the mint and tried on one of the Native American headdresses.
However, all this history has been denied and Longacre affirms that the design was taken from the statue of Venus crouching, a piece of art that at that time the Vatican had given to the American government as a loan.
What draws people’s attention today is the irony of the observation since it is the face of a Caucasian woman wearing an exclusive headdress of the chief of a Native American tribe. Something that today would even be disrespectful to the native peoples.
There are denticles as decorations on the obverse of the coin, along with the date it was minted, along with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
On the reverse of the coin, there is a much simpler design. An oak crown and a ribbon as decoration at the bottom surround the word “ONE CENT”. At the top, over ONE CENT, there is a shield.
The ribbon wraps three arrows that symbolize the strength of the United States to defend itself against any threat. Before 1859, the reverse of the one-cent coin was adorned with a laurel wreath instead of arrows or shields.
1899 Indian Head Penny Value Chart
1899 Indian Head Penny Value and Varieties Guide
In 1899, 53,598,000 Indian head cents were produced, struck by the Philadelphia Mint. Along with this large number of coins, 2,000 proof cents were minted, which have a particular value today.
The record price of this coin was given in 2019. A coin qualified as MS68 RD was auctioned at 108 thousand dollars.
The truth is that the year 1899 was quite regular, without any type of alterations or modifications that could result in rare coins, except for some specimens that we will talk about later.
But what all these coins have in common is a classification that depends on the color they present.
The various colors on the Indian head penny
The 1899 Indian Head Penny was 95% copper and 5% tin or nickel. For anyone who has collected copper coins, you know that color is a key factor in determining the price of each coin.
The color change in all copper coins is due to how this metal reacts over time and to contact with other elements.
The new copper coins have a very intense red color, we could even say that they have certain flashes of pink. With time, the typical color of copper begins to mutate towards a caramelized red without as much shine as when it was first minted. Coins that are even more exposed to external elements turn completely brown thanks to copper oxide that forms on the surface of the coin.
Thus, three color or hue designations have been created for these coins. Red, Red-brown, and Brown.
That way we will know how much environmental damage the coin has had and its price will be revalued according to its hue.
Some coins develop a color change only in some parts of the coin and in other areas they may maintain their initial brightness. These are the coins that are called Red-brown.
Those that retain their original shade are called red, while those that acquire a nice chocolate brown color are called brown.
As you might guess, the Red Indian Head pennies are the most sought-after, as they have maintained their initial toning, which indicates that they have been well preserved for more than a century.
The other two types of pennies maintain a very similar price, but there will always be a slight advantage for red-brown pennies of up to $50 over brown pennies.
1899 Indian Head Proof Penny Value
Along with the more than 53 million pennies that were minted in 1899, 2031 proof pennies were also ordered to be made. At that time, proof coins were made with a matte finish, imitating the proof coins that were minted in France.
The purpose of the proof coins was to have a way to do quality control and test the coins before they went into circulation.
The model used in the Indian head cent was chosen for being low relief and easy to mint, but this process required test coins that were later given away to people related to the mint or to collectors of the time.
American coins began to attract the attention of collectors around the world and the Mint sold many proof cents at higher-than-usual prices. Although the coins had a matte finish, they were free of flaws or minting defects of any kind and the engraving on the coins was almost perfect.
In addition to the quality of the coin, at that time many collectors already saw the acquisition of a proof penny as a good investment for the future.
The manufacturing process for these rare but expensive coins differs several times from coins that were minted for circulation.
The difference between regular coins and proof coins with a matte finish is in the minting process. While normal coins are struck on burnished planchets and pre-polished dies, matte-finish coins are struck on unpolished dies and plates.
They then go through a polishing process called sandblasting so that they have a grainy finish on the front and back of the coin. In this way, they get a clear image that shows all the details of the coinage.
Many of these coins are classified as gem quality and the prices are higher than any extra fine or uncirculated penny.
1899 Proof Indian Head Penny Value Chart
|Quality||1899 Proof Indian Penny Red||1899 Proof Indian Penny Brown|
|PR 60||$260 to $300||$110 to $132|
|PR 61||$300 to $345||$125 to $150|
|PR 62||$350 to $402.5||$145 to $174|
|PR 63||$400 to $460||$170 to $195.5|
|PR 64||$800 to $920||$225 to $259|
|PR 65||$1900 to $2185||$325 to $374|
|PR 66||$3600 to $5500||$700 to $850|
|PR67||–||$2750 to $3250|
1899 Indian Head Penny History
Copper coins such as the Indian Head penny began to be minted in the United States in 1792. At first, it was a pure copper penny, but as copper rose in price on the market, the coin came to exceed its face value.
The coin went from measuring 3 cm to 19 mm and went from being 100% copper to 88% copper and 12% nickel. Over time the percentage of the coin was changing to 90% or 95% copper and the rest was nickel or tin. It was also possible that the remaining 10% was a combination of nickel and tin.
A year before the Indian Head pennies were minted, the coin featured an American eagle on the obverse instead of Lady Liberty’s face in the feathered headdress. But there were many problems with the minting of the coin due to the figure of the Eagle, which was not easy to capture correctly. It is then that from 12 different designs, the Indian Head Cent is chosen.
During the civil war these coins were highly valued for that 10% nickel, so many people kept them instead of spending them. The Mint then decided to modify the coin, making it thinner, with 95% copper and only 5% tin or zinc.
A curious fact is that these coins were used to carry out any type of commercial transaction, but you could not pay your taxes with them. For taxes, only gold and silver coins were accepted.
The color classification of these coins applies only to those minted after 1964 since all the previous ones have an intense shine or the presence of nickel in them. Nickel coins received the nickname Nicks or White Cents due to their whitish shine.
1899 Indian Head Penny Grading
Although the 1899 Indian Head Cent does not have many variations since everything was minted in Philadelphia and there were no anomalies in its production, it is important to know what the price is according to its state of conservation and its tonality. In this video, you will find useful information about it.
List of 1899 Indian Head Penny Errors
The 1899 coins do not present conspicuous errors. It only has some errors in the minting process related to the dies.
If the die moves between the blows that the coin receives for its minting, then you will notice subtle duplications on the edges of some number or letter. These are the three errors of this coin.
1. 1899 Indian Head Penny RPD Error 1 (FS-301)
So that you can better understand the acronyms that coins with errors carry, you should know that FS stands for First Strike and refers to errors discovered in the month of its release. And the initials RPD are for the re-drilled date. On this coin, the minting date is slightly to the left. This coin can cost up to $660 in MS65 quality.
2. 1899 Indian Head Penny RPD Error 2 (FS-302)
In this coin, there is an error in the die and the defect is best appreciated with a magnifying glass. The serif on number 1 has been doubled within the number 8 and the last 9 of the minting date. It is known that one of these copies in MS63 quality was sold in 2017 for 124 dollars.
3. 1899 Indian Head Penny RPD Error 3 (FS-303)
Here the error lies in the duplicate of the second nine and the serifes of number 1. The highest price on this Indian Head Peny in MS64 RB quality was $301 in 2021.
1899 Indian Head Penny FAQ
Is an 1899 Indian head penny worth anything?
The United States coin book gives this coin a value of $3.89 under normal conditions and its price can reach up to $74 if it is a coin that has not been in circulation.
What do Indian Head pennies symbolize?
The coin tried to represent the freedom of the American people and their expansion to the west. It is also a reference and tribute to Native Americans in American history.