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Last Indian Head Cents Struck in 1909
By Tom LaMarre, Coins Magazine
January 13, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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The design change from the Indian Head cent to the Lincoln cent in 1909 had many people thinking. What would happen to all of those Indian Head cents? Minted since 1864 in bronze, and for several years before that in copper-nickel, Indian Head cents were a part of everyday life which had been taken for granted.

“Indian Head Penny Will Be Replaced By That of Abraham Lincoln,” said a headline for a story with a Philadelphia, Feb. 20, 1909, dateline in the Youngstown Vindicator.

“The U.S. Mint in this city will in a few days destroy the dies from which the present one-cent pieces are made. It will sink the new dies with the bronze-medal design of the head of Abraham Lincoln as ordered by the Treasury Department several days ago.…”

Production of Lincoln cents began in May. “No coins were paid out until after the close of the fiscal year,” the Mint director wrote in his annual report. “A stock was accumulated at the Philadelphia Mint to enable that institution to be in a position to fill orders promptly. The distribution of this piece was commenced on Aug. 2, 1909.”

A headline in the Aug. 5, 1909, issue of the Evening Independent said, “Indian Head Pennies To Be Withdrawn From Use.”

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“Banks have not received the new Lincoln pennies yet, but they are being minted and will be released rapidly.

“The Indian Head cents now in use all over the United States are doomed. The edict against them has gone out from the Treasury Department at Washington and their days in the land are numbered.

“A few short months and the present Indian Head penny of the common or garden variety will be as obsolete as the dodo, the hoop skirt or the man who remembers when [William Jennings] Bryan ran for president.

“So if you want to have some interesting and valuable relics to give your grandchildren, just save up your pennies. The introduction of the new penny upon which the head of Abraham Lincoln appears has sounded the death knell of the Indian Head variety.”

The San Francisco Mint struck only 309,000 Indian Head cents in 1909. The Philadelphia Mint turned out more than 14.5 million.

The Coins value guide lists a Good-4 1909 Philadelphia Indian Head cent at $11 and an Extremely Fine-40 at $19.

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