1907 Record Year for Cent Production|
May 01, 2013
In the age of penny arcades, penny candy and penny postcards, the Indian Head cent was king. The Philadelphia Mint struck more than 108 million Indian Head cents in 1907. It was a record year.
Production of Indian Head cents began in 1859. By 1900, so many had been minted that, if stacked, they would have made a column 100 times taller than the Statue of Liberty. Armored trucks delivered millions of Indian Head cents to New York City department stores. Demand surged during the Christmas season.
All signs pointed onward and upward for the Indian Head cent in the early 1900s. In 1907, the Bryan, Ohio Times reported:
“During 1906 the Treasury minted 80,719,103 pennies, of which New York State absorbed about 15 million, the demand from Illinois being next in point of size, while Massachusetts was third and Pennsylvania fourth.”
The story said that cent planchets were being made at the U.S. Mint, instead of a private plant in Waterbury, Conn., where they had been manufactured up to that time.
Counterfeiters were busy in 1907, too. The New York City Sub-Treasury was taking in 5,000 phony cents a week. Secret Service agents arrested a gang of cent counterfeiters that included Rosie Lerner, one of the most successful passers of bogus cents.
In Jamestown, Va., an exposition celebrated the 300th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Among the souvenirs sold at the Jamestown Exposition were Indian Head cents pressed into an aluminum frame with Good Luck and Jamestown Exposition inscriptions.
Not all Indian Head cent memories were pleasant. Newspapers reported that Gunda the elephant, temperamental star of the Bronx Zoo, attacked a worker that he thought was trying to steal a penny.
Meanwhile, there were signs the Indian Head design was headed for obsolescence. The Aug. 14, 1907, issue of The Washington Reporter said:
“Philadelphia numismatists received with interest the announcement of the new designs for United States coins, by the artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, have been accepted by the government.
“Three denominations will be affected: the double eagle, the eagle and the bronze cent, in the last two of which Philadelphia has a special interest.
“A radical change is made in the design on the cent, and though the Indian Head will be retained, it will bear little resemblance to the old one, and is expected to be more characteristic of the head of the American Indian with real headdress instead of the present design.
“The present Indian head is really a Caucasian type, the face having been posed for by a little daughter of James B. Longacre, the engraver of the Mint, who designed the present penny in this city in 1859.”
The Saint-Gaudens cent never made it into production. Instead, Victor Brenner’s Lincoln cent made its debut in 1909.
Collector interest in Indian Head cents eventually increased. Despite a massive mintage, 1907 cents were part of the trend. In the 1930s, the New Miss Mattick Co.’s classified ads in Popular Mechanics said, “We buy 1907 Indian Head cents.” Admitttedly, it may have been a ploy to sell a coin value guide. Currently, an About Uncirculated-50 1907 Indian Head is valued at $28. The value guide in Coins lists an Extremely Fine-40 example at $9.
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