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1864 Indian Head Cent - 1864 Bronze Indian Head Cent With L
1864 Bronze Indian Head Cent With L

TThe 1864 With L Bronze cent was introduced quietly when the Civil War continued through out the United States. Collectors did not notice the variety, and many pieces circulated for at least half a decade before being withdrawn from circulation. As a result, most pieces show signs from circulation and uncirculated pieces, especially with Mint red color remaining, are scarce.

Although identified by the addition of an L, the initial for James Barton Longacre, the designer on the ribbon, there are other differences with the previous issues. Longacre sharpened the overall obverse design, and the bust tip is narrowed. This is a feature that can also be found on the first year of issue, 1859, but that was discontinued for the remaining years of the Civil War. This design remained essentially the same until the end of the series in 1909.

It is possible that these were first made when all old dies had been retired first, but it sounds more likely that, at least for a short period, both types were minted at the same time. The main reason was the excessive cost of the Civil War, which had been raging since 1861 and which had largely influences the whole economic scene of the full continent. The union, much wealthier than the confederacy, had raised taxes to generate more funds for the Civil War. However, costs had to be cut in other places, and as a result the coinage dies were often used until too worn to be still used.

The exact mintage of the 1864 with L Bronze cent is not known. It is estimated that a total number of approximately 5 million cents were made for circulation in the latter part of the year utilizing this design. Walter Breen estimated that this mintage was struck from 18 obverse dies, but noted that there could have possibly been more. Many circulated for longer periods, and as a result pieces above Extremely Fine are scarce.

This is a very rare issue in gem grades, with full Mint red color remaining. Most coins were struck from worn dies, with unsharpened devices and rough services. Although the Bronze composition was easier to strike than the previously used Copper-Nickel, many pieces still come weakly struck and are no more than MS-63. The color is a very important factor of grading Bronze cents, especially the early issues. The pieces with full, original Mint red color are usually regarded as the most beautiful, and are the most in demand.

One of the reasons that this issue is so scarce with original Mint red color was the alloy that was used. Often, this was not correctly alloyed and many planchets show dark streaks from the uneven mixing of the alloy. These streaks later toned to an uneven brown color, losing its red designation. All these factors make this issue a true rarity in gem red, with only an handful pieces graded red by the major grading companies.

The proof is in a class of its own as well. As collectors only bought sets early in the year, proofs of this issue were not wanted. However, 20 pieces were struck in two different striking periods. The first, originals had nine pieces struck from two die pairs in 1864. Another eleven pieces were struck under Mint director Linderman, most likely in the late 1860’s when many rare issues were restruck by him.
Three die pairs have been identified by Indian Head Cent specialist Rick Snow. His numbers 1 and 3, of which the first are eight examples known and of the latter just one, are designated to be originals. Of die pair two are a total of 9 examples known, making that the majority of pieces is either on the market or in museums. The restrikes are identified by a long, raised die line on the neck, and die lines on the reverse are well. This reverse die was first used around 1868, when restrikes of various other issues were made as well.

The 1864 with L proofs is the rarest Indian Head Cent, as can be expected. Pieces have been fetching 6 digit prices lately, and this issue attracts many collectors when a single piece comes available. The originals, as can be expected, are the most popular but there is not much price differences. The restrikes are usually of better quality, although the heavy die lines that are used to identify this issue can be distracting. A proof coin of this issue will be the absolute highlight of an Indian Head Cent collection.



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1864 Indian Head Cent - 1864 Bronze Indian Head Cent With L - Civil War Coins

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