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1863 Indian Head Cent
1863 Indian Head Cent
In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, the circulation of all federal coinage had ceased. However, cent production at the Philadelphia Mint increased again, with a total of 49,840,000 struck for circulation. An estimated 460 proofs were produced for collectors, of which an estimated 300 survive in all grades. Although the circulation strike is available without any difficulty, the proof is much scarcer than the previous year of issue, which only had a slightly higher mintage.

This was the first year of cents that were nowhere to be seen until after the Civil War in 1865. The only items that circulated freely as money were 1 cent sized tokens, privately made and usually out of Bronze. Fractional paper currency that was issued by the government instead of regular coins, circulated freely as well. These saw production numbers increase rapidly during the Civil War.

After the Civil War, these pieces started to circulate for the very first time. It was in this period that most circulated pieces acquired certain degrees of wear, and/or other problems. During the early 1870’s, following the coinage redemption act of 1871, many pieces of this issue were melted. This Mint act authorized the United States Mint to redeem minor coinage, including cents in copper-nickel alloy and reissue the cents. All bronze pieces were reissued after 1874 without being melted and recoined, but the copper-nickel cents were melted. However, due to its large mintage many 1863 cents were saved and at least 10,000 pieces still exist today in uncirculated condition.

Because of its high mintage, which was the highest production of cents until 1897, this issue is commonly included in type sets as the representative for this type. Another result of its high mintage is that this coin is relatively common in all grades up to MS-65. As with the other coins of this type, carbon spots and discoloration are often found problems. Weak strikes, a result of the hard copper-nickel alloy are common on this issue, probably because the dies were used longer before being put to rest compared to the previous years. As a result, early die states with strong strikes are very scarce, and always in demand for their overall eye-appeal.

In MS-66, this issue becomes rare and higher graded pieces are currently not known. Only about three dozen PCGS/NGC MS-66 coins are available, and they are always in demand. In this grade, pieces should have full, usually satin-like luster. No more than a few slight marks should be visible on either side. The natural coloration, as all copper-nickel cents is a white, light grey color, highly appealing but hard to find. Most pieces are toned to a darker color in various degrees.

Proof coins of this issue are moderately scarce, but available in most grades. Frosted pieces that are certified as being Cameo are scarce, but can be found with some searching. PF-66 graded pieces are rare with just less than a handful pieces known to exist. A singe PF-67 has been graded by PCGS, and is the absolute finest known, rare for the type as well. The higher graded pieces should have no distracting hairlines, and deep reflective fields. Although they are among the scarcest of the proof Indian cents, they are not much in demand except by specialists who are building sets. As can be expected for proofs, all are strongly struck and show high eye-appeal.

Overall, this issue is common in all circulated and uncirculated grades up to the gem level, but gets very scarce in higher grades. Proofs are less often available than the 1862 issue, but can be located with some adequate searching. Besides being popular for inclusion in type sets, these are also collected as mementos to the Civil war, as they were struck in the middle of America’s greatest (or bloodiest) war.



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1863 Indian Head Cent - Information on 1863 Indian Head Cent - Civil War Coins

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