Changes to the Indian Head Cent design occurred in 1860, 1864, 1870, 1886, and 1909. These different designs create entire avenues for collecting and research. For instance, 1864 is a very popular year not only because of the Civil War, but because the mint made design alterations and changed from copper-nickel planchets to bronze.
1860 Pointed/Rounded Bust Design Change
1864 No-L/L in Ribbon Design Change
1870 Reverse Indian Head Cent Design Changes
In 1870, the ONE CENT reverse master hub wa modified by William Barber, who succeeded James B. Longacre as Chief Engraver upon his death. There were three types of reverses:
- Type I – This ‘Shallow N’ design was used 1864-1872, and in 1877. Rumors afloat of an 1873 Shallow N, but one has yet to be verified.
- Type II – This transitional design has attributes of both the Shallow N and Bold N types. It is as if the engraver was interrupted mid-way through the redesign process, and an impression was pulled from his work. The bar of E in ONE will be trumpet-shaped, and the E in CENT will be T-shaped.
- Type III – ‘Bold N’ is the nickname for this reverse type, but often it is easier to tell the difference between these reverse types by examining the shape of the Es’ middle bars. They will be either a hard T-shape or curved like the end of a trumpet.
Type I – Shallow N
Type III – Bold N
1886 Indian Head Cent Design Change
The difference here is that the letters of the obverse are in a different position relative to Liberty’s portrait. An easy way to distinguish the difference is to look at the last feather of Liberty’s headdress. Does it point below or above the C in AMERICA?
1909 Small L/Large L Hub Design Change
In 1909, the mint modified the Indian Cent hub to include a larger ‘L’ initial on Liberty’s ribbon. Interesting, some 1909 obverse dies were hubbed with both Small L and Large L hubs. This form of double die is discussed in detail by Kevin Flynn below.
1909 Large/Small L Indian Cent
by Kevin Flynn
One of the most interesting types of doubled dies is Class III, Design Hub Doubling. Under this Class of doubling, the working die was hubbed by two working hubs with different designs. The cause of the difference being a new master hub being created with a difference in design from an old master hub, the master hub is used to make a master die. Then the master die is used to make a working hub which is used to make working dies. The working die is hubbed at least twice by the working hub to get a good impression into the working die. Between hubbings, it is allowed to cool down for a few days, then annealed before being rehubbed.
If a working die is struck from of working hub, then is rehubbed by a working die with a different design, then the doubling will be different between the designs of the two working hubs. Most design changes for master hubs happened at the end of the year to be used in the New Year. A few happened in the middle of the year.
In the Indian cent series from 1864 through 1908, a small L was used on the ribbon to represent the designer, James B. Longacre. In 1909, the master hub was changed and the initial L was increased in size. The date was also engraved into the master die. That is why we see no repunched dates in 1909. Before that time they were punched into the working dies.
At least two working dies were struck first with a working hub of 1908 with a small L, then with a working hub of 1909 with a large L. This was probably at the beginning of the year, with the working dies after being struck with the [908 working hubs, being cooled off for a few days. Then being returned to the hubbing presses and being rehubbed with the new 1909 working hubs.
This variety was first shown to Larry Steve and myself by Joe Haney. You can clearly see the image of the smaller L underneath the large L. Using overlays verified that this was truly the image of a small L making this a Large/Small L.
Published in the Longacre’s Ledger Vol. 6, No. 2 Spring of 1996.