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1890 Indian Head Penny Value Guide

The most exciting part of finding a coin is looking up its price and seeing that it’s worth much more than face value.

Besides its face value of $0.01, the 1890 Indian Head Penny is worth $1.50 in Average Condition and $20 in Extra Fine condition.

If you find an 1890 Indian Cent in Mint State, it can sell anywhere between $20 and $600, but the highest price ever paid for this coin was $91,062.50 in 2022.

Of course, not every 1890 Indian Head Penny will fetch you up to $91,000, but some might. Read on as we explore this coin and unravel its present value, varieties, and desirable errors.

Background of the 1890 Indian Head Penny

1890 Indian Head Penny

The 1890 Indian Head Penny belongs to one of the longest-running coin series in American history; the Indian Head Pennies or Indian Cents, which came just after the Flying Eagle Pennies.

In 1890, the U.S. Mint discontinued the three-cent nickel, which increased the demand for other small cents like one-cent coins. To meet the demand for small cent coins, the 1890 Indian Cent was minted in mass numbers.

Since its inception, the Indian Cent has undergone a series of slight changes. These changes include changes to its composition and design. Initially, the Indian Cent was made of copper and nickel clad, but by 1890, its composition was that of copper, tin, and zinc, making it a bronze composite.

This Indian Head Penny from the year 1890 features a female figure wearing what is believed to be an Indian feathered headdress or an adornment that pays tribute to Native American culture. Let’s discuss some more specifications below.

1890 Indian Head Penny Features

1890 Indian Head Penny Specifications

  • Category: Indian Head Cents or Indian Head Pennies (1959 – 1909)
  • Year of Make: 1890
  • Mint Branch: Philadelphia (No mint mark)
  • Total Mintage: 57,182,854
  • Face Value: $0.01
  • Composition: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & Zinc (Bronze composite)
  • Weight: 3.11 grams
  • Diameter: 19 millimeters
  • Edge: Plain

Obverse & Reverse of the 1890 Indian Head Penny

The design of the obverse and reverse of the 1890 Indian Head Penny was done by James B. Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the U.S Mint.

1890 Indian Head Penny Obverse

The obverse features the female figurehead typical to all Indian Head Pennies. This figure appears in the left profile and is adorned with a feathered headdress, while the following inscriptions can be found on this side of the coin;

  • UNITED STATES: Inscribed on the left side of the coin, between the denticles and the face of the female figure.
  • OF AMERICA: Can be seen on the right side of the coin, behind the image of the female figure head.
  • LIBERTY: Inscribed on the Indian headdress across its band.
  • 1902: Inscribed at the bottom center of the coin.

The reverse of the 1890 Indian Head Penny depicts a shield in the upper middle area of the coin, with an oak wreath on either side. The bottom of the wreath is intertwined with a bunch of three arrows, and the only inscription on this side of the coin is as follows;

  • ONE CENT: Inscribed in the middle of the coin.

What are the 1890 Indian Head Penny Varieties?

A coin can have several varieties depending on its mint location. There are three major mint locations in America, including the San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Denver Mint. Coins usually bear a mint mark corresponding to its mint location, so mint marks could be “S”, “P”, or “D”.

Just like other Indian Head Pennies, the 1890 Indian Head Penny was only minted at the Philadelphia mint facility. Hence, it should typically bear the mint mark “P”, but it doesn’t.

Although this coin was minted at one location, it still has its varieties as it was produced in business strikes and proof strikes, with each mintage as follows;

1890 (Indian Head Penny Varieties) Mintage
1890 (Regular Strike) 57,180,114
1890 (Proof Strike) 2,740

What is the Current Value of the 1890 Indian Head Penny?

Although the 1890 Indian Head Penny was minted over a hundred years ago, it’s not as scarce as you may think. If you look hard enough, we are sure you would find a few pieces in coin shops or mixed-date rolls. However, they might not be worth much due to wear.

Only coins in pristine conditions are valued at high prices, but they are hard to find as most of them have been in circulation for over a century.

According to the NGC Price Guide, an 1890 Indian Head Penny Value in MSBN condition is valued between $1.50 and $600, while one in MSRB condition is valued between $85 and $1900.

One of the rarest grades to find is MSRD, but if you can find one, it is valued between $170 and $1650. The chart below offers more details on the pricing of this coin.

Grade (MSBN) 1890 Indian Head Penny (Regular Strike) 1890 Indian Head Penny (Proof Strike)
57 $35 N/A
58 $40 N/A
59 $50 N/A
60 $55 N/A
61 $65 $180
62 $75 $235
63 $100 -$110 $265
64 $145 – $170 $345
65 $325 $710
66 $600 $950

1890 Indian Head Penny (Regular Strike) Value

1890 Regular Strike Penny

The Philadelphia Mint produced millions of 1890 Indian Head Pennies in business strikes as they were intended for commercial circulation. As such, you will most likely come across one of these than one of the proof strike coins.

The USACoinbook estimates the value of a 1890 Indian Cent to be $68 to $94 in Uncirculated Mint State, with a melt value of $0.242.

According to The NGC Price Guide, the value of an 1890 Indian Head Penny is worth between $1.50 and $1,650, but a coin may be valued more or less, depending on its condition and rarity.

The most recent sale of an 1890 Indian Head Penny was $856 in July 2023, while the highest auction price for this penny was $91,062.50 in 2020. Let’s consider some of the highest prices ever paid for this coin;

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
MS66+RD $26,400 (2019) Stack’s Bowers
MS66+RD $22,800 (2021) Heritage Auctions
MS66RD $7,200 (2023) Heritage Auctions
MS65RD $6,600 (2022) Stack’s Bowers
MS66RD $3,480 (2022) Heritage Auctions

1890 Indian Head Penny (No Mint Mark, Proof Strike) Value

1890 Proof Penny

The Philadelphia Mint produced the 1890 Indian Head Penny in about two thousand proof strikes. So, besides regular-looking pennies, you might be lucky enough to come across an 1890 Indian Cent that appears shinier and more attractive than others.

The appearance and low mintage of the proof strike coins makes them somewhat rare coins. Therefore, they are valued higher than regular strikes. These proof strike coins are hard to come by, so if you are in possession of one, it could be worth a few hundred or thousands of dollars.

According to recent updates from the NGC Price Guide, the value of an 1890 Indian Head Penny falls between $180 and $4,750. The most recent price paid for one of these coins is $360 in 2023, while the highest auction price is $5,040 in 2019.

Take a look at some of the highest recorded prices ever paid for this coin;

Grade Highest Price & Sale Date Firm
PR66 $2,070 (2008) Heritage Auctions
PR66 $1,955 (2008) Goldberg Auctions
PR65 $1,495 (2007) Heritage Auctions
PR65 $1,208 (2008) Heritage Auctions
PR64 $1,035 (2008) Stack’s

1890 Indian Head Penny Errors to look out for

As rare as collectible coins may be, error coins are even more rare and highly sought after due to how fascinating they are.

Error coins are produced when there has been a faulty minting process due to bad equipment, mechanical error, or human error. The resulting coins are usually loved by numismatists as they make the coin-collecting process even more fun.

At the time the U.S. Mint produced the 1890 Indian Head Penny, it still employed faulty and imperfect production methods. Thus, error coins were produced quite often.

Some desirable 1890 Indian Head Penny errors you can look for include

  • Obverse lamination
  • Double die
  • Off-center error
  • Broad-struck errors

Let’s discuss them in depth below.

Obverse Lamination Error

1890 Penny Obverse Lamination Error

While minting, sometimes foreign substances like dirt or oxides may leach onto the surface of the planchet. When the coin is struck and these impurities are trapped in it, they cause the coin to peel or flake with time.

For instance, consider an 1890 Indian Head Penny with this error;

  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – Obverse Lamination: Graded MS62 Brown, this error coin sold for $162.50 in 2010.

Off-center Error

1890 Penny Off-center Error

Designs on a properly struck coin are usually centered, however, due to improper planchet placement, a coin’s design can tilt away from its center, creating an off-center error coin.

The off-center error is fairly common, and you can find quite a number of 1890 Indian Head Pennies with this error. Some of them include;

  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 30% Off Center: This coin sold for $575 at grade XF45 in 2005.
  • 1899 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 15% Off Center: Graded AU58, this coin sold for $345 in 2005.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 15% Off Center: Sold for $384 at grade AU58 in 2022.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 10% Off Center: Graded MS65 Brown, this error coin sold for $444 in 2021.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 10% Off Center: Sold for $188 in 2015 at grade AU58.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 20% Off Center: Graded AU53, this coin sold for $282 in 2015.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 5% Off Center: Sold for $80.50 in 2005 at grade VG10.
  • 1890 1C Indian Head Cent – Struck 5% Off Center: Sold for $57 in 2010.

Double Struck Error

1890 Penny Double Struck Error

When you find a coin that looks like it has two or more images on it, you might be dealing with a double struck error coin. This type of error coin is produced when a coin is struck more than once using the same die, resulting in multiple designs.

Some 1890 Indian Cents with this error include;

  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – Double Struck, Second Strike 85% Off Center: Sold for $660 in 2018 at AU53.
  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – Double Struck, Second Strike 85% Off Center: Graded AU53, this error coin sold for $900 in 2017.
  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – Double Struck, Second Strike 70% Off Center: Sold for $2,115 in 2016 at grade AU58.
  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – Double Struck, Second Strike 85% Off Center: Graded sold for $1,092.50.

Broadstruck Error

1890 Penny Broadstruck Error

Broadstruck error coins are created when a coin is struck outside its retaining collar. Without a collar, the metal flows outside the confines of the coin, resulting in a broadstruck collar. Coins with this error often appear larger than regular coins, with irregular edges and wider diameters.

The following 1890 Broadstruck Indian Head Penny presents more than one error, which slightly increases its value.

  • 1890 1C Indian Cent – 40% Indented Broadstrike on a 2.6 gram Planchet: This error coin was also struck on the planchet intended for a different coin design. It sold for $517.50 in 2006 at grade AU50.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to buy or sell an 1890 Indian Head Penny, it could be worth up to $91,000. However, remember the Indian Head has to be in pristine condition to be valued at such high prices.

This set of Indian Cents was minted in high numbers and may not be hard to find today. To check if your 1890 Indian Cent is still in good condition, look for the “LIBERTY” inscription on its obverse.

A high grade penny will still have sharp and visible inscriptions, while retaining some of its original luster.

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