Indian Head Penny Overview
The Indian Head penny was a unique coin that featured an obverse that paid tribute to the Native Americans. Although a new and rather different design, the Indian Head penny was accepted by the populace and saw heavy circulation. Today, many collectors still seek Indian Head pennies for their simple but unique design.
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James B. Longacre was the designer of both the obverse and reverse of the Indian Head Cent in 1859. Longacre’s Indian Head cent would be produced for 50 years before the ever-famous Lincoln Wheat penny was introduced in 1909.
On the obverse, a rendition of Liberty is centered facing left and wearing a traditional Native American headdress. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is split between the left and right fields of the obverse. The date of mintage can be found directly below Liberty’s neck.
The reverse is very simple and features the words “ONE CENT” centered between a wreath. At the bottom of the wreath is a ribbon that holds a group of arrows. A small shield can also be found at the very top of the wreath.
If you want to learn more about the Indian Head penny or other rare and collectible cents, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Pennies.
History of the 1904 Indian Head Penny
Though the end of production for the Indian Head penny series drew close, a significant amount of coins were minted. In 1904, a slight decrease in the overall production of Indian Head pennies occurred.
The mint at Philadelphia reports striking 61,326,198 Indian Head Cents in 1904. Lower mintage numbers could be attributed to a built-up supply of Indian Head pennies from the previous years.
Like other Indian Head pennies minted between the middle of 1864 to 1909, the 1904 minted penny weighs 3.11 grams and is 19.05mm in diameter. Denticles (Small dots found on the surface of the coin near the rim) are present on both the obverse and reverse.
Reductions in Mintage of Indian Head Pennies
An interesting phenomenon in coin production and collection is the sometimes large change in mintage numbers. A reduction in mintage figures is what leads to the creation Key Date and Semi-Key Date coins. There are some common reasons for the reduction in mintage numbers and each cause has a different type of impact.
The first cause of a mintage reduction is the simple fact that supply outweighs demand. If the mint is sitting on a large amount of coins and the banks or federal reserve is not demanding new coins, they will lower production. This is what happened with the mintage for the 1904 Indian Head penny.
Another, often times more serious problem, is when the mint is not producing coins that are up to standard. Some problems that occur include weak strikes, equipment problems, and poor color/luster.
These problems tend to result in much lower mintages than when an excess amount of coins are in holding. To try to fix these problems, the mint has to constantly be changing dies or working on mintage machines. These fixes are what really cut into production numbers the most.
The final problem that occurs, although rarely, is a shortage of blanks. These blanks are what coins are struck on, and the mint has had a history of having issues with keeping an appropriate number of blanks on hand. For example, the Morgan silver dollar was not produced for several years until the mint could obtain enough silver blanks to continue production.
Overall, all coin series ever produced in the history of the United States have experienced mintage reductions. Most mintage reductions that did occur were due to one of the reasons explained above. Sometimes the reductions were due to a combination of two or more reasons, but this is a rare occurrence.
Valuing the 1904 Indian Head Penny
The majority of 1904 Indian Head pennies tend to be in the lower end of circulated condition, but a small number are still in uncirculated condition.
Good 4 through Fine 12 examples realize a price of around $2–$4. An increase in grade to Very Fine 20 has a similar price increase to $6. The value jumps to $10 for examples in Extremely Fine 40 condition.
Uncirculated examples command a much higher price if they have the original red luster. Red-brown and brown-toned coins normally have slightly lower values compared to full red examples.
Uncirculated examples start at $38 for MS-60, and climb to $60 for MS-63. A huge increase in price to $175 is realized in MS-65 varieties. Very few coins have been graded in MS-66 condition and have a much higher premium than MS-65 examples.
Prices for the 1904 Indian Head penny are similar to other dates near the end of the series. Of course, these prices may change in the future to better represent the difference in mintage figures. Until then, prices will continue to stay very stable.