There are a number of very good Indian Head cents that seem to get little attention. The 1869 certainly qualifies as one of these. It actually qualifies twice as in addition to the regular 1869 there is also an 1869 “9” over “9” coin. Both are probably far tougher than many believe.
There are a lot of factors to consider with the 1869. The first is the time and the mintage. The country was still pulling itself out of the problems created by the Civil War. Moreover, the econony was not as strong as some might have wanted. Over time it would even get worse. To make a long story shorter, it was not a perfect time to collect coins.
The mintage of the 1869 was 6.420,000. It might have been an early sign of pending economic woes as that total was actually lower than any small cent in history up to that time. There would be lower mintages in the years that followed, but the 1869 total at the time of issue had to be seen as low.
Even with its low mintage at the time, the 1869 has never had much of a reputation for being a better date Indian Head cent. In some respects that’s unfair as it is better, but it seems to be permanently in the shadows cast by the dates that followed. In the case of the 1877, it is not just the 1869 in its shadow but so the lower mintage 1909-S.
The 1872 Indian Head cent has a well deserved reputation as a very tough coin in MS-65 and it is really the darling of the specialists. The 1871 is better, too, and may well be close to the 1872 in terms of small numbers of MS-65 coins.
It is also worth noting that the 1871 and 1872 had lower mintages than the 1869. The market is less impressed by mintages. In G-4 the 1869 is $90 while the 1871 is $88 and the 1872 is $110. In comparison, the 1877 is $985.
In MS-65, the 1869 is $1,750, the 1871 is $2,400 and the 1872 is $3,850. The 1877 is $13,000.
What is interesting about the MS-65 situation is that the 1869 is not significantly more available than the others. Some grading service totals indicate it is less available.
Whatever the actual relationship between the 1869 and other tough dates, the fact remains it is elusive in top grades. In MS-65 and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen 144. At the Professional Coin Grading Service the number is 111.
The 1869/9 is tougher than the regular 1869. It is $190 in G-4 and $$2,350 in MS-65. Lower grading service numbers support this differentiation.
If you want a Proof-65 1869, they are available at a price of $3,100, which might be a bit unusual in that the odds were higher that at the time of issue collectors would have saved the proof over the uncirculated coins. This habit of collecting just the proofs was easy to justify as it was only at Philadelphia that cents were made.
The fact that the proof price is higher than the Mint State price is also a change in the market. Not too many years ago the proof sold for less.
Whatever grade of 1869 cent you pick for your collection, you can be sure you are getting a coin that is probably scarcer than is being perceived.
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