The Indian Head Penny series began circulation in 1859 and ended in 1909. Designed by James Longacre, Head Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, this coin series has long been a favorite of collectors.
The previous cent piece was the size of a half dollar and was made entirely of copper. As the price of copper rose in response to the California Gold Rush, the Mint shrunk the size of the cent piece to the 19 millimeters we know today and decreased the percentage of copper, first with the Flying Eagle cent in 1857 and then with the Indian Head Penny in 1859.
Throughout the tumultuous years of its production, which included the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, the Indian Head Penny saw several design and composition alterations, such as changing the wreath on the reverse from laurel to oak.
On the obverse of Longacre’s coin, we have a profile bust portrait of Lady Liberty wearing a Native American-style feather headdress with the word “LIBERTY” engraved on the headband. Wrapping around the top rim are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and below Liberty’s head is the year of mintage.
On the reverse, the denomination “ONE CENT” is centered prominently surrounded by a wreath. At the top of the wreath is a shield, and at the bottom of the wreath is a bundle of arrows. On both the obverse and reverse faces, the coin features a denticled rim, a rim comprised of a ring of small bumps.
History of the 1906 Indian Head Penny
The 1906 Indian Head Penny was among the last mintages of the Indian Head Penny, as the series was replaced by the Lincoln cent in 1909. At the beginning of the 20th century, including 1906, Indian Head Penny mintage was restricted to the Philadelphia Mint. It wasn’t until 1908 that they were produced elsewhere. As such, there are no mint marks on 1906 Indian Head Pennies.
The Philadelphia Mint reports minting 96,020,530 Indian Head Pennies in 1906, a rather large mintage for the time period. Large numbers of mintage are characteristic of all late Indian Head Penny mintings; this increase can be attributed to the stability of the economy in the early 1900s as well as the emerging popularity of penny arcades across the nation that created a demand for cent pieces.
From a design standpoint, the 1906 Indian Head Penny bears no difference from other Indian Head Pennies, though it should be noted that the wreath on the reverse is composed of oak leaves instead of the laurel used in earlier mintings.
Compositionally, the 1906 coin is also standard for Indian Head Pennies at this time: 95% copper, 5% tin and zinc. It has a diameter of 19mm and a mass of 3.11 grams.
Valuing the 1906 Indian Head Penny
Because of the large minting numbers for late Indian Head Pennies, the 1906 minting has many surviving examples. As such, it is not as highly valued as certain dates, especially those of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the market for Indian Head Pennies is stable, and lower grades still fetch a decent price.
1906 Indian Head Pennies which are graded as Good 4 or Very Good 8 are generally valued at $2-3. Fine 12 coins are valued around $4.68, Very Fine 20 coins around $6, and Extremely Fine 40 coins around $10.
If the coins are in an Uncirculated or Mint State (MS-60 or MS-63), their value can range from $30 to $57. Proof coins (PR-63) are worth the most, being valued at $144 or more.
At auction, Mint State and Proof coins can bring in as much as $165, and in one case, a 1906 Indian Head Penny with exceptional luster and sharp strike sold for $460 at a rare coin auction!
Outside of going to a coin dealer to have your coin appraised, the best way to get an idea of the condition of a 1906 Indian Head Penny is to look at the feather, hair, and headband detail on the obverse face. The sharper and clearer the texture appears in the feathers and hair–and the more legible the word “LIBERTY” is on the headband–the more value your coin is likely to have.
Even if your 1906 Indian Head Penny is of a lower grade, these coins are highly sought after by collectors looking to complete the Indian Head Series, so getting the $2-3 price for your coin should not be an issue.
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