also known as the Indian Head Cent,
were struck by the United States Mint from 1859 to 1909 at Philadelphia. Their history is a rich and interesting one. In 1858 the Mint decided to test different designs for the cent. They tried an eagle, and although itís more aesthetically pleasing, it was not a popular design at the time. It also made for heavier, more cumbersome coins. Because of this, the Mint decided that the Indian Head image was the appropriate new design for the cent and implemented it.
The production of Indian pennies between the years of 1859 and 1860 were much larger because copper large cents and small cents were being redeemed for the new pennies. With the exception of some very minor changes in appearance, Indian pennies continued being produced until 1909, when Abraham Lincoln's (Lincoln cent) cameo replaced the image of the Indian head on the penny.
The coins that were struck during 1858 and 1864 contain a mixture of mostly copper with some nickel. During this time - before the release of what we now know as the nickel - these Indian pennies were referred to as nickels or "nick" for short. Due to coin hording during the Civil War, these pennies were replaced by private tokens in the North. After 1864, the composition changed to bronze and remained that way for the duration of its striking.
Indian pennies are hard to come by, and have a considerable value to avid coin collectors. Once obtained, they are a welcome addition into any collection. I'm personally a big fan of Indian head pennies and enjoy collecting them!