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Good to see red with Indian Head cents

Collectors are now turning their eyes and pocketbooks to Indian Head cent varieties, correctly graded key dates and those with original red color.

Indian Head cents remain a popular series to collect.

Indian Head cents remain a popular series to collect.

Rick Snow, an expert on Indian Head cents and owner of Eagle Eye Rare Coins, Tucson, Ariz., said the series is well known for varieties.

“There are some really outstanding errors and varieties out there,” he said. “There’s all sorts of weird ones. A lot of oddballs in this series.

“There’s a lot of collectors who start collecting an Indian Head date set. As they get into it, they discover the varieties.”

Indian Head cents are known for having many overdates, die clashes and doubled dies, he said.

“A lot of people go after the 1869/9,” he said. In G-4, the 1869/9 is currently priced at $190 but skyrockets to $1,000 in AU-50.

“Of course, the rare coin is the 1888/7 overdate,” Snow said. “It’s worth a couple thousand no matter what. In G-4, it’s worth at least $1,000.”

Charmy Harker, known as “The Penny Lady” from Irvine, Calif., said Indian Head cent varieties are picking up on the market.

“Usually, it’s more the major cases like overdates and misplaced numbers,” she said. “For example, there’s a 1897 where part of the one broke off and is poking out of the neck.

“Third-party grading companies are recognizing more varieties, they’re showing up in price guides and there’s more reference books for them. There’s more awareness for Indian Head cent varieties now.”

Snow said collectors of the series are also looking out for coins that are correctly graded.

“There has been a rash of overgrading,  especially with key dates in circulated grades,” he said. “When these coins show up in auction, they sell for much less than what a correctly graded coin would sell for. So, the price guides are lower than what correctly grade coins are going for.

“According to price guides, the 1877 is down in price. Anyone who looks closer will see they are actually up, especially in extremely fine (XF) to about uncirculated (AU). That’s because a lot of key dates are being graded XF and AU when they’re only very fine (VF).

“You see a big disparity in prices for coins in overgraded holders. The number of overgraded Indian Head cents is about 50 percent.”

It is easy to grade Indian Head cents in circulated grades though, he said.

“Collectors can look at the ribbon and if it stands out from the hair,” he said. “This can determine between a VF and XF coin. AU coins should have a little luster and original surfaces.”

When it gets to the higher grades, look for the coin’s color as well, he said.

“There are graded red coins that aren’t fully red,” Snow said. “Basically, for full red, it has to be red and has no traces of brown toning.

“There’s a big jump in value for red Indian Head cents. The 1890 is scarce in a high grade with red color. That’s an underappreciated rarity.

“As for red-browns, you can get a date for much less.”

Harker said how much less red-brown dates command depends on the coin.

“Let’s take an MS-65 common date Indian Head cent from the 1900s,” she said. “In MS-65 red-brown, it’s probably in the $200 to $250 range. An MS-65 red cent is closer to $600 to $700. For older and key date Indian Head cents, there’s an even greater difference.”

How much red is left on a red-brown Indian Head cent can affect the price, she said.

“A red-brown cent with 90 percent red will sell for a bit more than a red-brown cent that only has 50 percent red,” she said.

Collectors should store red Indian Head cents well, she said.

“The older a series gets affects the availability of red coins,” Harker said. “Unless you store them properly, they will turn brown. Over time, they’ve become difficult to find on the market.”

So, if you have a red Indian Head cent, a correctly graded key date or one of the many varieties, keep it close. These are the movers on the Indian Head cent market.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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