The 1858 Flying Eagle is not an especially rare date, but that does not mean it has been ignored over the years. As one of the few Flying Eagle cents, the 1858 has had a certain amount of demand even though the Flying Eagle cent is not a heavily collected set except as part of an Indian Head cent collection.
The release of the first 1857 Flying Eagle cent had been an event of some significance. A nervous group of officials had clearly been happy with the fact that the new Flying Eagle cent was seemingly popular with the public. Production was rushed in 1857 to meet what seemed like a large demand.
Heavy production continued the next year with the 24,600,000 mintage 1858, of which there are two varieties. It comes with large letters where the “A” and “M” in “America” are joined, or small letters where they are separated.
We are not exactly sure of the varieties’ mintages, but historically they have been treated as being about equally available. Today’s prices in G-4 are close, with the large letter variety at $27.50 and the small letter variety at $26. In MS-60 the large letter variety is listed at $340, while the small letter is $320. That sort of small difference continues in MS-65 where the large letter is $3,850 while the small letter is $3,650. When it comes to proofs, the small letter is more expensive at $30,000 while the large letter is at $24,500.
The high proof prices are a result of the fact that at the time the idea of making proofs and selling them to collectors was really just taking hold. Any Flying Eagle cent in proof is a very tough coin that is in great demand from specialists.
The prices of either variety of the 1858, especially in Mint State, are lower than might otherwise be the case. One reason is that, while a two-year type, the Flying Eagle cent fortunately had high mintages.
A second factor is that the Flying Eagle cent was saved in some numbers both at the time it was released and a few years after, as the public hoarded copper-nickel cents. It was an unexpected situation brought on by fears over the Civil War.
At such times it’s expected that gold and silver will be hoarded, but no one anticipated that a desperate public would also take to hoarding cents. Later it appears that the novelty of the first small-size cent that was produced for only two years caused some collectors to save quantities as well. The hoards might not have been strictly of the 1858, but few coins in U.S. history have so many and such varied reports on hoards and small accumulations.
The situation makes either 1858 variety of the Flying Eagle cent an interesting coin for any collection. With reasonable prices, the 1858 varieties are a good purchase for every collector.