The 1859 Indian Head Cent was the first year of issue and a one subtype. The coin had a mintage of 36,400,000 coins produced for circulation with an estimated 800 coins in proof format. The circulation strike represented the highest mintage of any United States coin up to that time.
Due to the larger mintage and the tendency for the public to keep first year issue coins, the 1859 Indian Head Cent is available in all grades today. Most examples circulated for at least a few years, either before or after the Civil War. Mint state coins are available but experience constant demand from type set collectors seeking a premium quality example of this issue.
The coins represents a one year subtype for the series because of the reverse design, which featured a laurel wreath. For all subsequent years of the series, an oak wreath with a shield at the top was used.
The 1864 Indian Head Cent “with L” represents a minor design change for the Indian Cent series.
The design change was made by adding the letter “L” on the lower ribbon of the obverse and sharpening the overall design. The “L” stood for “Longacre” the last name of the coin’s designer, James B. Longacre. This represented the last major design alteration for the duration of the series.
The 1864 Indian Cent “with L” is scarcer than the early version with “no L.” In proof, the coin represents a major rarity with an estimated 20 pieces produced, of which the majority have survived. The design change was not immediately noted by numismatists, so not many examples were saved, and the production of proof pieces remains a mystery.
The 1877 Indian Head Cent is known as a key date coin of the series. There were 852,500 pieces reportedly produced for circulation, although Rick Snow suggests that only 200,000 coins were struck. Whatever the number is, the coin is rare in all grades.
Most of the coins produced experienced significant circulation, making uncirculated coins infrequent. Choice examples are always in demand and finding the right price may require several years of intensive searching for the conscientious collector.
The 1877 Proof Indian Head Cent had a mintage of approximately 900 coins. This is comparable to the proof coin production for other coins of the era, however the rarity of the circulation strike transfers some desirability to the proof version, granting a premium.
In 1908, the production of cents began at the San Francisco Mint. This represented the first time in history that a minor coin of the United States had been struck outside of Philadelphia. This had become possible due to a change in law, which allowed non-silver or non-gold coins to be produced at branch mints. The San Francisco’s “S” mint mark appears on the reverse of the coin, beneath the base of the wreath.
The 1908-S Indian Head Cent had a mintage of more than one million pieces. Production was significantly lower in the following year, when the San Francisco Mint struck only 309,000 cents with the Indian Head design. This was actually the lowest mintage of the series, although the coins are less scarce than the 1877.
The 1909-S Indian Head Cent is another key date, with the lowest reported mintage of the series at 309,000 pieces. Also of interest, this coin represents one of only two years that Indian Cents were produced at the San Francisco Mint and marks the final year for the series. In the same year, the production of the Lincoln Cent began, which was marked by the famous 1909-S VDB.
It is said that most of the scant mintage of the 1909-S Indian Cent was soon retracted from circulation and hoarded as a monument to the design. Because of the impact of the hoarding, the coin is not as rare as the mintage would suggest. Examples, however, are always in demand and pieces with good eye-appeal are hard find.
taken from: http://indianheadcent.org/