Except for the 1908-S and 1909-S, people tend to overlook the Indian Head cents produced after the mid-1880s. It’s a natural thing to do, as by the 1880s the mintages of Indian Head cents had begun to increase significantly. That was seen when the mintage of cents jumped from 17,650,000 in 1886 to 45,223,523 the following year.
Under those circumstances it is only natural that the 1887 is going to be less expensive. That would be the case for virtually all dates that followed and especially those starting with the 1900.
There was a substantial mintage increase after 1886 and there would be another in 1900. No date from 1900 to 1907 had a mintage lower than 61 million pieces. The 1908 would be something of an exception at 32,326,367, and then there would be the 1909.
To say the mintage of the 1909 Indian Head cent stands out would be an understatement. At 14,368,470, there had not been a lower mintage Indian Head cent produced at Philadelphia since 1885. The reason for the low mintage is that the 1909 was only produced for a few months before Philadelphia made the transition to producing the new Lincoln cent.
Being the final Indian Head cent produced at Philadelphia does give the 1909 a special place in history. That is not something to be taken lightly. In 1909 the Indian Head cent was an institution. While a different composition, the design had been around since before the Civil War. The Indian Head cent had been carried in the pockets of millions of Americans during the exciting and troubled times that back in 1909 represented almost 50 percent of the nation’s entire history.
One might think that as one of the final Indian Head cents and a low mintage date, the 1909 might have been heavily saved. It was certainly possible that there was some saving, but consider the options in 1909.
There was the 309,000 mintage 1909-S Indian Head cent. Then there were the new Lincoln cents including the 1909-S VDB and the 1909-S as well as the 1909 VDB and 1909. Collectors at the time might well have been overwhelmed with possibilities, especially in light of that fact that it was only 1908 when acquiring more than one cent each year had become a possibility. Prior to 1908 there had been no cent production outside Philadelphia.
Today the 1909 has a price of $15 in G-4. In MS-60 it is at $38, which does suggest some saving. Despite a much lower mintage, the 1909 is almost at the same price as other dates from the period beginning in 1900. The price difference in MS-65 is also very small with the 1909 at $155.
The problem is that ultimately the supply of the 1909 in Mint State as well as other grades is likely to be smaller than the other dates. Moreover, it would not be out of the question to see a slight increase in demand as the centennial of the last Indian Head cent is marked.