The Ultra Rare 1877 Indian Head Penny
What Are 1877 Indian Head Cents Worth?
You can get almost $700 for a worn out penny? Yes, if it is an 1877 Indian Head cent because they are so rare if you can read the date and make out most of the design, coin collectors are willing to pay as much as $650 for one graded simply as "Good".
Indian Head cents started being produced in 1859 and were made until 1909 when the Lincoln Wheat cent took it's place as the one cent piece. The design shows Liberty wearing a native american headdress with "LIBERTY" written on it. On the reverse is an oak wreath surrounding the words "ONE CENT", with a shield at the top and a bundle of three arrows at the bottom, a design used since 1860.
Why Are 1877 Indian Heads Scarce?
According to the official figures of the main U.S. mint at Philadelphia, they produced 852,500 Indian Head pennies in 1877 but that does not seem like an accurate number given how rare the coins have become in the intervening years. Most experts say that there are likely only about 5,000 of the 1877 cents still kicking around. Even by the 1890s the 1877 penny was listed as rare. There are always some coins that get buried or tossed into a river or lake. For a number of years it was considered lucky to put a coin down when pouring concrete and some may have been melted down or put on a railroad traintracks and squished. So how did so many disappear?
My guess is that there were not that many to begin with and the mint erred in their count of the 1877 Indian Heads. The dies used to punch the coins is the first clue. According to sources there was only one die used for the Liberty side, or obverse of the coin which is troublesome because after about 200,000 impressions the die usually would be worn down to a nub or have cracked and all of the 1877 coins seem to have fairly solid strikes. Maybe some of those counted were actually 1876 Indian Heads that were previously made. There were almost eight million of the 1876 Indian Heads made and it may be possible that they were mislabeled.
Either way, most agree that there were probably only about 200,000 of the 1877 pennies minted and some have disappeared over the years leaving a very small number with those that remain being insufficient to meet the demands of coin collectors.
So, What Is My Indian Head Penny Worth?
If you are one of the lucky few who has a circulated 1877 penny you have a coin that is worth almost $800 - minimum. These coins are so rare and hard to come by that even if your coin is graded as "good" meaning that it's design as been worn away but you can still see the date and the basic details of Liberty in her headdress a coin dealer will want to buy that coin from you. A coin dealer wouldn't necessarily pay you $800 or full price for any graded coin because they need to make a profit and would offer maybe $500-$600. If your coin came up for auction you might see $800.
This is of course just for an 1877 graded as good. A coin graded higher could bring you thousands. As you know from your own pocket change most older pennies develop a brown color as they age while new coins have a fiery red color. That red color is another factor in determining the value of older pennies and those which look like they just left the mint will have a hefty premium. Last updated January 2013.
The charts above show the value of 1877 Indian Head pennies that are brown in color and their value in various grades, from "G" meaning Good to MS65 or "mint state 65" meaning although the coin is brown, the design is almost perfectly preserved. The more detail and less wear a coin has, the higher the grade it will be assigned.
Reddish-Brown 1877 Indian Heads Are Also Very Valuable
Finding an 1877 Indian Head penny in mint condition is hard enough, but what is the value of one which is in mint shape and still retains some of it's original red color? Pennies which still have part or some of their reddish color are classified as "Red-Brown" and they are a step up in value from cents that have turned completely brown.
There are coin collectors who prefer those pennies which have gone a beautiful chocolate brown color, but there are far more who want to add a 1877 Indian Head to their collection if it still has some luster and red coloring. Below is a listing of the coins graded MS60 and above that have a nice mixture of red and brown.
Uncirculated Red 1877 Indian Head Cents
There are so few uncirculated 1877 Indian Head pennies that have turned up over the years that the demand for them far outstrips the supply making the price they go for when they rarely appear at an auction very high.
Out of the approximately 852,000 supposedly minted only about 15 have been graded MS65. One of the rarest coins in the world is the Golden Princess which is part of the Red Copper Collection put together by coin collector Stewart Blay.
Do you need to have your coins graded professionally?
Having a professional coin grader assign a value to your coins allows you to know the value of your own coins as well as the coins of others that you are considering purchasing.