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Most people probably think of Indian Head cents when they think about really old pennies.
However, before the Civil War — and before Indian Head pennies — there were Flying Eagle cents.
Flying Eagle cents, which were struck for 3 short years (1856 to 1858) were actually the very first small size pennies.
Before Flying Eagle cents, there were large cents. Large cents, most of which were almost the diameter of a half-dollar, were struck from 1793 to 1857.
Which Flying Eagle Cents Are Rare?
For being such an old coin, Flying Eagle cents really are not rare as a type.
However, the 1856 Flying Eagle cent is considered very rare.
The 1856 Flying Eagle cent is being sold for nearly $7,000 and up, even in well-circulated grades. Only about 1,000 were struck and, in every sense of the word, the 1856 Flying Eagle penny is the very first of the small cents.
However, 1857 and 1858 Flying Eagle cents are far more common, with more than 40 million (combined) originally struck. But far less than that survive today. Many of those which are still known to exist have been cleaned or are corroded, scratched, or otherwise damaged.
Finding a nicely worn Flying Eagle cent without any notable problems is important. Don’t settle on the first Flying Eagle cent you find! Avoid those which are discolored or pitted. If buying for a type set, spend the extra few dollars and buy a nice quality piece.
How Much Are Flying Eagle Cents Worth?
The Flying Eagle cent has risen in price considerably over the past 10 years or so with nice, circulated pieces now costing $30 to $50, compared to around $20 in the 1990s.
As mentioned earlier, the 1856 is by far the rarest of the Flying Eagle cents at almost $7,000 in heavily circulated grades.
In fact, including variations in lettering and the date, there are at least 5 different Flying Eagle cents in the Flying Eagle cent series. Counting double dies and other variations, there are several more.
Here are approximate prices for the 5 primarily collected Flying Eagle cents:
- 1856 $6,700 to $24,000 for Good-4 to Mint State-63
- 1857 $27 to $850 for Good-4 to Mint State-63
- 1858 Large Letters $27 to $850 for Good-4 to Mint State-63
- 1858 Small Letters $27 to $950 for Good-4 to Mint State-63
- 1858 over 7 $75 to $12,000 for Good-4 to Mint State-63
*Values obtained from the Professional Coin Grading Service‘s (PCGS) coin prices website.
Typical Flying Eagle Cent Collectors
There are people who specialize in and collect only Flying Eagle cents. There are many more people who would include Flying Eagle cents as part of a type collection.
There are also coin collectors who place Flying Eagle cents into their collections as part of a penny collection.
It is also the case that some coin collectors study and focus on Flying Eagle cents along with Indian Head pennies.
Where To Find A Flying Eagle Cent
Flying Eagle cents simply don’t circulate any more, as the coin is more than 150 years old and was removed from circulation by collectors many decades ago.
That said, it never hurts to check your pocket change, because Flying Eagle cents are indeed still legal tender.
If you want to get your hands on a Flying Eagle cent, be sure to check with a coin dealer. Many coin dealers, both online and brick & mortar, sell Flying Eagle cents. Ebay is another place to find Flying Eagle cents.
Unless you are shopping for cheap deals, just be sure to avoid cleaned, corroded, and discolored Flying Eagle cents.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!