Indian Head Penny Overview
Nearly 160 years after its first mintage, the Indian Head penny is still an incredibly popular coin and a staple of many collections.
The Indian Head penny was first struck in 1859, replacing its predecessor, the Flying Eagle cent. The Indian Head penny was only the second small cent to be created.
Like the Flying Eagle cent, the Indian Head penny was designed by James B. Longacre, who was an extremely influential figure in the design of American coinage.
The obverse of Longacre’s design features not an “Indian,” but in fact a profile bust portrait of Liberty wearing a Native American-style feather headdress. Below her neck is the year of mintage, and surrounding her head is the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
The reverse design originally featured a simple laurel wreath with the denomination “ONE CENT” boldly in the center. Coins with this design are referred to as Type 1 Indian Head cents. However, this design was changed in the following year.
All subsequent mintages of the cent piece have an oak wreath instead, with “ONE CENT” in the center and a union shield at the top. Both faces also feature a denticled rim, a ring of small bumps.
The composition of the Indian Head cent likewise evolved. Coins minted from 1859 to 1864 were 88% copper and 12% nickel and had a diameter of 19mm and a mass of 4.67g. Coins with this composition are Type 2 Indian Head cents.
Coins minted from 1864 to 1909, on the other hand, are composed of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc and have a diameter of 19mm and a mass of 3.11g. Coins with this new composition belong to Type 3 of the Indian Head cents.
1909 was the final year of mintage for the Indian Head cent and saw the appearance of its successor, the Wheat penny.
History of the 1905 Indian Head Penny
Collectors consider 1905 a late mintage of the Indian Head penny. Like other late mintages, especially those in the early twentieth century, 1905 saw a rather large number of pennies struck: 80,717,011.
One proposed reason for such high mintage numbers at this time is the growing reliance on cent pieces for penny arcades, public transportation, and other such services.
Because so many coins were produced, hundreds of different dies were used for striking the pennies. As a result, there are several minor varieties for the 1905 Indian Head penny. However, these do not typically raise the premium for the coins.
At the time, these coins were only produced at the Philadelphia Mint. It was not until 1908 that Indian Head cents would be struck elsewhere. As such, there is no mint mark on 1905 pennies.
1905 Indian Head pennies are typical for coins in the series minted after 1864: a composition of 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, a diameter of 19mm, and a mass of 3.11g.
Valuing the 1905 Indian Head Penny
Because there were so many of these coins produced, they are still quite common, even in the highest grades. As a result, their value is not typically very high.
That said, Indian Head pennies have a stable market among collectors, and the right grades can be worth a fair bit of money.
For a Good-4 to Very Good-8 grade coin, the value is $2 to $3, and Fine-12 coins are worth $4.64. This range of values is the average for 1905 Indian Head pennies.
The value increases to $6 in Very Fine-20, $10 in Extremely Fine-40, and $21 in About Uncirculated-50. Uncirculated (MS-60) grade coins are worth $38, and Uncirculated (MS-63) coins are worth $57. Proofs can be expected to bring up to $144.
Another important factor that collectors use in valuing Indian Head cents (and copper coins in general) is the color. There are three designations: Brown, Red-Brown, and Red or Full Red. Full Red is the most desirable and valuable color.
This color designation can make quite a difference in value. Whereas a Brown 1905 MS-65 Indian Head is valued at $175, the same coin in Red-Brown is worth $270, and in Red it is worth $750. A Full Red MS-67 Proof is valued at $10,000!
Unfortunately, Full Red coins almost exclusively exist in the highest grades, so they can be difficult to get your hands on. Still, if you think you have such a coin, it would be worthwhile to have it professionally graded by a service such as NGC.