Monday, June 18, 2012

The Flying Eagle US cent. 1856-1858

One of the shortest lived of all coins in the history of the United States and truly one of the more beautiful. The Flying Eagle penny was new in every sense of the word. It had an Eagle on the front, not Liberty, Peace or anyone's mother. It was designed by James Longacre, Chief Engraver of the US Mint. But it was so very different in size too. From the 1790's till 1856 every US penny was what we called a large penny and indeed they were. They were made of copper and were the standard of what a penny should look like. But by the early 1850's the large cent was not popular with anyone, specially the Government. There was a major reason for this which we will go into. In the picture below, you will see a 1856 Large Cent and a 1857 Flying Eagle Cent. By the mid 1850's it was costing the US Mint $1.06 to make a dollar of large cents that were worth $1.00! So it was decided to shrink the size of the penny and change its composition. The new penny you will notice in the picture is lighter than the large cent. it does not have that dark copper look to it. The large cents were 100% copper. With the development of the the new penny a new composition would be made. that would be 88% copper and 12% nickel. Therefore it has a shinier and brighter look than the all copper penny. Being that it was a bit harder in mixture it was also harder to stamp. Dies went bad and it was a hard coin to print. By 1858 it was all over and it would be replaced by Indian Head Penny in 1859. It was shown that after the discontinuing of this penny it was re struck in 1858 and 59 using original dies. So some coins are not what they appear to be. But for two years this lovely coin was part of the national coinage. But by 1859 it was no more.