Indian head pennies (also known as Indian head cents) – so called because of the image on the head side of the penny which depicts the Lady Liberty wearing a traditional Native American headdress – are some of the most highly collectible pennies today. No coin collection is complete without at least one!
Native Americans were called Indians by US settlers back when the coin was first struck in 1859. These coins have a long history, and were still produced until the beginning of the 20th century – so there are lots of examples out there waiting to be collected.
But which Indian head pennies are the most valuable? What are the key dates for Indian head pennies? And why are some more valuable than others?
We have assembled a list of the top 7 most valuable Indian head pennies, a little bit about their history, and their market value as of August 2022. We’ve included a handy price guide, as well as a buying and selling guide for collectors and sellers alike.
7 Most Valuable Indian Head Pennies
Here, we’ll go through the most valuable Indian head pennies, along with their identification features, market value and the most expensive example ever sold. The values stated are accurate as of August 2022, and have been listed in value order following the USA Coin Book. Proof values have been included where known. The highest auction values follow listings from PCGS.
But first you’ll need to know a little bit of coin-related jargon:
- PCGS – the Professional Coin Grading Service. These are one of the bodies responsible for grading and authenticating coins. They are commonly involved in the buying and selling of the most expensive coins in circulation.
- PR followed by numbers – this is a type of grading system used by coin graders. PR stands for “proof” – these wer coins struck solely for collecting and not intended for general circulation. The numbers indicate the condition.
- MS followed by numbers – MS stands for “mint state” and is another term used by coin graders. The PCGS rates coins from MS60 (worst condition) to MS70 (best condition).
- P – a P on its own or preceded by a dash in the coin’s title or listing indicates that a coin was struck in the Philadelphia mint. Almost all Indian head cents were minted here. The Philadelphia mint left no mintmark.
- S – an S on its own or preceded by a dash in a coin listing means the coin was struck in the San Francisco mint. Some Indian head cents were minted here between 1904-1909.
- Red – when a coin is described as red, it means the original coppery lustre of the coin has been well preserved.
- Brown – when a coin is described as brown, it means it has lost its original coppery color. Some coins are described as red-brown which is a step better than brown and a step worse than red.
1. 1888 Indian Head Penny, Last 8 Over 7
Technically an “error coin”, the 1888 Indian head penny dubbed the last 8 over 7 features a mistake whereby the date (1888) was struck over the previous year’s date (1887). Look for a small knob or bump beneath the final 8 in the date – this is the end of the 7 from 1887! It is also sometimes called the 1888/7 or 8/7 coin.
A standard 1888 Indian head cent with the last 8 over 7 with an L is valued as follows:
- Good: $1,318
- Fine: $2,277
- Extremely fine: $8,510
- Uncirculated: $25,587
Highest Value At Auction
In 2007, a 1888/7 1C PCGS MS63 Brown Indian head cent was sold for a whopping $74,750!
2. 1873 Indian Head Penny, Double Liberty
Coming in in second place is the 1873 Indian Head Cent featuring a “double Liberty”. This is an extremely rare error coin, technically a doubled die error. Get your magnifying glass out and take a close look at the word Liberty on the headdress. You should be able to see a doubling of this word which indicates a double die error has been made.
The value of a typical 1873 Indian head penny with a double liberty is as follows:
- Good: $227
- Fine: $940
- Extremely fine: $2,812
- Uncirculated: $15,118
Highest Value At Auction:
The record for the highest value version of this coin goes to the 1873 1C Doubled Liberty PCGS MS65 Red and Brown which was auctioned off at $69,000!
3. 1877 Indian Head Penny
1877 Indian head cents are often cited as the most valuable Indian head cents, and this is true as a general rule. Around 852,500 of these coins were minted during 1877, one of the sparsest years in the production of Indian head pennies believe it or not!
There are no particular features to look out for with this one. It is simply the rarity of the coin that makes is so special and valuable.
The value of your typical 1877 Indian head penny is as follows:
- Good: $1,028
- Fine: $1,765
- Extremely fine: $2,812
- Uncirculated: $5,126
- Proof: $2,962
Highest value at auction:
In 2009, a 1877 PCGS 1C PR67 Red Indian head cent was sold for $97,750!
4. 1864 Indian Head Penny, L On Ribbon
In 1864, the features of the Indian head penny became clearer, the details were sharpened.
James Longacre designed the image on the Indian head coin. Accordingly, an L was added in 1864, placed on the Lady Liberty’s ribbon, just behind her neck. It is believed there are only 20 of these individual 1864 proof coins out there, making them incredibly rare and hence super valuable.
3 types of the 1864 Indian head penny have been recorded, and the Snow-PR2 is the rarest of all. There are thought to be only 7 in existence today! Die lines are the way to identify this one. There is one beneath Lady Liberty’s ear, and some along the edge on the opposite “tail” side of the coin.
The edges of the coin are plain, and they weigh 3.11 grams with a diameter of 19 mm.
A standard 1864 Indian head penny with an L is valued as follows:
- Good: $74
- Fine: $177
- Extremely fine: $311
- Uncirculated: $657
- Proof: $10,109
Highest Value At Auction
The PCGS graded the highest value 1864 coin at PR65. The number 65 indicates it is in better than average condition with only some minor damage. Allegedly the 1864 PCGS PR65 Snow-PR2, L on ribbon coin sold at $161,000 USD in 2011! But unfortunately we can’t find any evidence of this.
We could, however, find a 1864 L On Ribbon MS Indian head cent which sold for $34,075!
5. 1909 S Indian Head Cent
The 1909 S Indian head penny is notable because it was minted in San Francisco rather than Philadelphia. The S mintmark can be seen beneath the wreath on the “tail” side of the coin. There were very few struck in 1909 which makes this a rare penny.
A standard 1909 S Indian head cent is valued based on condition as follows:
- Good: $607
- Fine: $752
- Extremely fine: $940
- Uncirculated: $1,318
Highest value at auction:
An 1909-S PCGS MS Indian head cent was auctioned off for $97,750 in 2006!
6. 1872 Indian Head Cent, Shallow N
During 1872, two kinds of 1872 Indian head cents were produced: those with bold Ns and those with shallow Ns on the “tail” side of the coin. The N refers to the Ns in “one cent” found on the reverse side.
Shallow N pennies were struck with an older hub and die, so the N is less distinctive and appears to blend into the background. These are quite distinctive, and rare than 1872 bold N pennies, making them more valuable (and hard to find a photo of! The photo above is of a 1872 bold N penny).
The typical value for an 1872 Indian head cent with shallow Ns is as follows:
- Good: $112
- Fine: $416
- Extremely fine: $631
- Uncirculated: $1,388
Highest value at auction:
A 1872 1C PCGS MS66 Red Indian head penny sold for $126,500 in 2007!
7. 1894 Indian Head Penny, Double Date
Another rare error coin, the 1894 penny was struck with a double date. It is also called the 1894/1894 Indian head cent. You can see how the “94” in 1894 has been re-punched into the coins. The error is quite subtle, so good luck spotting that!
The typical value for an 1894 Indian head cent with a double date error is as follows:
- Good: $34
- Fine: $74
- Extremely fine: $256
- Uncirculated: $1,268
Highest value at auction:
The auction record for a 1894/1894 1C Repunched Date, Snow-1, FS-301, PCGS MS66 Red Indian head coin was $30,000!
Indian Head Pennies Figurines: Price Guide
All Indian head pennies tend to fetch a reasonable price as one of the most collectible kinds of penny out there. Those which are rarer or include unusual errors will fetch a higher price, and the condition of the coin will have a big impact on its value.
Rare coins are highly collectible and should be properly valued before being bought or sold. The most efficient way of checking the value of an Indian head penny is to get it appraised by a professional coin appraiser. Ideally, take the penny to show an expert in person. If this is not possible there are plenty of appraisal services online – just make sure you find a reliable one! Bear in mind that appraisal will incur a fee.
You could try taking detailed, close-up photos of the coin, focusing on any unusual features. Post these to a coin collecting website or forum, or checking out your coin against the U.S. Old Coins Identification chart.
You may want to try and value a coin for yourself before seeking professional help. Here are some simple steps you can take:
Check the whole coin for scratches, marks, fading, and any kind of damage that could devalue the coin. Coins in perfect or uncirculated condition will fetch the highest price. Those in worse condition with bad damage can devalue epically. However, very rare versions of the Indian head penny may still sell for a lot of money even when damaged.
You can try grading your coin yourself, although it’s pretty hard without some experience. More information on PGCS coin grading here.
Please note, do not try and clean your coin! This is a big mistake that a lot of people make. It’s easy to think that washing it and buffing it up will help raise the value, making it shiny and new. This is not the case. Coin collectors want coins in “original” condition, and washing or buffing up a coin may lead to micro-scratches or fading of key features on the coin. Leave your coins nice and dirty and guarantee a better price!
2. Research Recent Sales
Searching through eBay and other online auction sites will give you a good idea of how much the coin is selling for currently. Try to find the same kind of coin with the same mintmark, potential error marks, and condition.
3. Check The Identification Features
Research your coin thoroughly. Make sure you know what kind of features to look out for, where they should be, how deep or shallow the marks are meant to be. Using a magnifying glass or a high magnification eye lens is a great tip when looking for notable features.
4. Look Out For Fakes!
It’s scary how many fakes and counterfeit coins are out there! Make sure you know what kind of signs to look out for, and don’t get tricked. Take a look at the video below for tips on telling a 1877 Indian head coin from a fake.
Indian Head Pennies: Buying And Selling
Whether you want to start a coin collection, or sell an unusual coin that has come into your possession, we have assembled the best resources for doing so.
Before buying or selling, make sure you research the average market price for the particular penny you are buying or selling. Search thoroughly for the type of penny, and try to find examples which have been sold in the same condition as your coin (or in your desired condition).
Check out Collector’s Weekly for useful background and live listings across different auction sites. Sellers and Royal Doulton enthusiasts share their stories and rare finds on this site.
The Indian head cent section of eBay is a great place to get a gauge for the right price of your coin. Filter the search results by grade, keywords, and year struck.
When making a purchase, go for listings that include a lot of details and close-up images of key features or areas of damage. If something is not explained, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more details about the coin.
How much is a 1900 Indian head penny worth?
Indian head pennies from 1900 are one of the lowest value Indian head pennies out there, but still more valuable that those from after the turn of the century such as 1901 or 1902. Here is a general indication of the value to expect depending on the condition: good $2, fine $6, extremely fine $10, uncirculated $40.
What year Indian head penny is most valuable?
As a general rule, the 1877 Indian head pennies hold the most value on the market today. Collectors seek out these coins as soon as they are available on the market, even those in bad condition are sought-after. However, rare pennies and those with notable errors will fetch a higher price.
What is the oldest Indian head penny?
Indian head pennies began to be struck around 150 years ago in 1859. So an 1859 Indian head penny is the oldest official coin in this series. It was designed by James Longacre who was the chief engraver of the main mint of America during this time – the Philadelphia mint.
What are the kay dates for Indian head pennies?
The main dates to look out for when buying or selling an Indian head penny are 1877, 1864, and 1909-S. There are, however, other Indian head cent editions or error coins from other years that are highly valued.
Are 1902 and 1901 Indian head pennies worth anything?
Usually these coins are valued at $1.5-$7.5 in circulated condition, depending on their grade. Uncirculated coins can sell for $20-$30.