Publicly Sold Proof Coins and Sets, 1858-1889 Table of Contents

*Flying eagle, large letters (AM joined). Rev. Laurel wreath. The only illustration believed to be of this coin (in Judd) shows leaves in clusters of 5. Judd 196; A W 244, confused by Adams with the small letters coin. Not in the regular 12-piece sets. Exceedingly rare, under 6 reported. (1) Woodin, Newcomer, Boyd, Judd. (2) Woodin, Newcomer, Boyd, Kosoff, Guild. (3) Woodin, Newcomer, Boyd, Kosoff, Kaplan. (4) Woodin, Judson Brenner, Brand. Others offered as "AW 244" have proved to have small letters.

*"Indian" head. Rev. "Cereals" wreath. Obv. adopted 1859, rev. regular die of 1857-58. "Second Transitional." Possibly 40 - 50 known. Judd 213, A-W 270. Obv. displays the same "Venus Accroupie" head Longacre had been using ever since 1849. It was derived from a Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze, in one of the Philadelphia museums; the name means "Crouching Venus." Longacre added the anachronistic feathered headdress (according to a letter he wrote Mint Director Snowden) to give the whole composition "a more national character;" hence the misnomer "Indian head" -but no Native American ever bore that profile! The reverse, miscalled "tobacco wreath" by Adams -proving that he had never seen the weed growing -consists mostly of corn and cotton, and is the same one found on gold dollars and three-dollar pieces since 1854. One or another variety included in the 12-piece sets. The following varieties exist:

- Low date, 1 much nearer border than bust. Left base of 1 r. of left edge. Rev. Low leaves at C T (ending below base line of CENT), wide open E's, no center dot, this die found on some J-206's from the regular 12-piece sets. Rare. Wayte Raymond; Bolender 3/59:717, J. M. Wade, Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:286; others.

- Centered date, 1 equidistant between bust and border. Left base of lover left edge. No line joins dentils r. of date. Rev. As preceding. Judd illustration; Austin: 1108; 1974 GENA:1243; many others.

The Adams-Woodin illustration shows low date and high leaves (that at C extending above base line of CENT); this combination we have not seen and tend to doubt as many A-W cuts take obv. and rev. from different coins.

"Indian" head. Rev. Laurel wreath. Types adopted 1859. "Third Transitional." Possibly over 100 known, some proofs, some uncs., some worn. Judd 208, A-W 264. One or another variety included in the 12-piece sets. At least four obverse dies. The following varieties exist (relative rarity not yet completely known):

- Low date. Rev. Prototype, leaves in clusters of 5. Woodin, Col. Green, J. M. Wade, W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:290, as "J-208A"; Scott:1230 (AU); others.

- Low date. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 6. LM 9/70:622; "Gilhousen":1493; others. Either of the low date varieties is believed scarcer than the centered date.


- Centered date, line joins dentils r. of date, left base of lover left edge. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 5, before repolishing. Woodin, Col. Green, J. M. Wade, W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:291, called "J-208B"; 1974 GENA:1244; others, including Scott: 1231, VF. This obv. die is found on some J-211 and 212A coins from the 12-piece sets.

-Identical dies, but after rev. was drastically repolished, many leaves now incomplete, some as disconnected fragments. Restrike? J. M. Wade, W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:292 as "Judd 208C," others.

-Same obv. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 6. Woodin, Col. Green, J. M. Wade, W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:294 as "Judd 208E," others.

- Similar, but date farther to r., 1 far beyond truncation point, farther from it and from border. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 5, intermediate state, repolished but only a few leaves affected. Copper. Judd 209, A-W 265. "Dupont": 1223; W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA:295, few others. Very rare. May also exist in copper-nickel.

-Similar, but date in usual central position, to left; no line joins dentils r. of date; feathers more vigorously executed; left base of lover center. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 5, before repolishing. Parsons, Ryder, Wayte Raymond, NN 35:584, W. C. Blaisdell, 1971 ANA: 293 as "J -208D"; others.

- Same obv. Rev. Leaves in clusters of 6. Found in various grades, no proofs lately seen.
Other varieties are possible.

The coins of this design - as adopted in 1859 - have long been more popular than the other transitionals, even though less rare. Like the others, they have tended to find their way into date sets of regular issues, by analogy with the 1856 Flying Eagle cent, 1836 Gobrecht design half dollar, 1863 2¢ of adopted type, 1882 Liberty head nickel of adopted type, 1865 silver coins with motto, 1865 shield nickel with rays, etc. On Nov. 4, 1858 Mint Director James Ross Snowden wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb, recommending this particular design, and proposing to adopt it as of Jan. 1, 1859, should the Secretary approve, which he did. The reason for selection of this particular obverse-reverse combination was a good technical one. When the highest relief parts of obverse and reverse designs are opposite each other on the coin, neither one will strike up well using single blows from the usual knuckle-action presses (as in business strikes); Flying Eagle cents, despite their aesthetic merits, usually were rather poorly struck up on parts of head and tail of eagle, as those areas were directly opposite relief areas of wreath. The "Indian head" design obverse was laid out in such a way that the relief areas were more spread out and did not directly oppose those on the (lower relief) wreath reverses. Probably Snowden'S motive in striking extra quantities of the "Indian" /laurel wreath transitional design was to provide tangible evidence both of good design and of excellent striking qualities both on steam press (unc.) and on screw press (proofs).

Trime. Heavy date. Point of star nearer to first 8 than to 5, above r. edge of 8. Striae slant slightly down (they fade). Dies more brilliantly polished than on former proofs of this denomination. Rev.: Right corner of third I joins knob and leaf tip. Doublings as on 1856-7 die. Probably three to four dozen specimens survive at most out of an original mintage in the neighborhood of 60-75. Many of these have been cleaned, some drastically. The Delp - 1975 ANA: 98 example brought $1200, the Newlin-Garrett coin $1600.

Publicly Sold Proof Coins and Sets, 1858-1889 Table of Contents