It might not be the most difficult Indian Head Penny to find in mint condition, but the 1902 edition is still an essential piece from the set.
Over 100 years old, the 1902 Indian Head Penny coin was released towards the end of the run and is a popular choice with collectors aiming to own a real piece of history.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the 1902 Indian Head Penny, such as values, varieties, and an investment outlook that looks at the potential for profit over the next few years.
1902 Indian Head Penny: Design and Info
The 1902 Indian Head Penny is a one-cent coin that was produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1859 to 1909, making it one of the later versions to make it into circulation.
Designed by James B. Longacre, the penny was eventually replaced by the Lincoln cent, another popular choice from an investment perspective. A simple design, it features his daughter wearing a Native American headdress on the front of the coin, while the reverse features a wreath encircling the ‘one cent’ value.
Longacre explained the reasoning behind his design in a letter to the mint:
“From the copper shores of Lake Superior to the silver mountains of Potosi from the Ojibwa to the Aromanian, the feathered tiara is as characteristic of the primitive races of our hemisphere, as the turban is of the Asiatic. Nor is there anything in its decorative character, repulsive to the association of Liberty … It is more appropriate than the Phrygian cap, the emblem rather of the emancipated slave than of the independent freeman, of those who are able to say “we were never in bondage to any man”. I regard then this emblem of America as a proper and well-defined portion of our national inheritance; and having now the opportunity of consecrating it as a memorial of Liberty, ‘our Liberty’, American Liberty; why not use it? One more grace can scarcely be devised. We have only to determine that it shall be appropriate, and all the world outside of us cannot wrest it from us.”
The 1902 coin is not especially notable and has one of the lower book prices for uncirculated versions. This is because it’s one of the newer pennies from the collection, despite the relatively old age.
However, there are a number of coins that are worth mentioning, which we’ll get into below.
1902 Indian Head Penny: Best Varieties
The Philadelphia mint produced a tally of 100 million for the first time in 1907. They were pretty close in 1902, as 87,374,704 pennies were minted. 2,018 proof specimens were also made in 1902. (Proof specimens are extremely valuable compared to normal coins.)
As for the best varieties, grades such as mint or uncirculated take into account the color of the coin. This can be designated as red (RD), red/brown (RB) or brown (BN) and will be listed after the numerical grade.
Here are some of the best 1902 Indian Head Pennies to keep an eye out for.
1902 Indian Head Penny (BN)
As we’ve mentioned, all 1902 cents were produced at the Philadelphia Mint. What truly separates the best pieces is the color of the coin, so we’ll note the differences found with each one. (The majority of coins will have achieved the MS grade, which stands for ‘Mint State’. There will also be a numbered grade.)
A brown (BN) 1902 coin will have lost much of its original shine, so much so that the surface is now a deep brown color. It’s the cheapest of the trio but is still collectible at higher grades.
1902 Indian Head Penny (RB)
A 1902 Indian Head Penny with an RB designation will have anywhere between 10% and 90% of the original orange-red color. This means you should check each piece carefully, and there can be significant differences in terms of the price tag.
1902 Indian Head Penny (RD)
Of the trio, red coins have the highest premium. They’re the closest to the original orange-red color when they were minted, while it can achieve an RD grade as long as a coin has retained about 90% of its original copper shine. They have to be seen as the best investment pieces overall, given their rarity and relative value.
1902 Indian Head Penny: Values
It’s not the most expensive Indian Head Penny by any means, but MS-64RD grades have recently sold for over $230, vastly exceeding the book price. A Proof version also sold for $345, making it another great investment for the future.
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The majority of 1902 coins will be worn to some degree, especially if they were in circulation at the time. They’re not especially expensive unless it’s a pristine copy such as the ones that sold above.
You can find ungraded copies for sale in rolls of old coins, and individual pennies will sell for less than a dollar.
1902 Indian Head Penny: Investment Outlook
The 1902 Indian Head Penny looks to be one of the better coins from the collection, especially if you’re just getting started in the hobby. It’s worth a fraction of the price compared to rarer editions, such as the 1909 (S).
In 1909, the Lincoln cent replaced the Indian Head penny, but not before 309,000 Indian Head cents were produced at the San Francisco mint. From an investment perspective, it looks to be a better option given the relative rarity.
In comparison, the best-graded versions of the 1902 cent have a guide book price of just $152. As we’ve noted, a combination of red color and an MS grade will currently sell for more, while Proof coins are always worth picking up if you’re hoping to sell for profit at a later date.
Despite the age, most 1902 pennies are worth hardly anything, so we’d stick with the best possible versions within your budget.