The S-Mint Indian Cents: Classic US Coins
There are few coin series that originated in the 19th century and are as widely collected by date and mintmark as the Indian Cent.
Designed by James B. Longacre, Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, and in production from 1859 through 1909, the Indian Cent saw the vast majority of its production at the Philadelphia Mint, which was long the only Mint facility authorized to produce base-metal coinage of small denominations; the bronze one-cent and copper-nickel five-cent coins could not be produced at branch mints. This changed in 1906 when the restriction that prevented branch facilities from producing small-denomination base-metal coins was lifted.
Charting as the first of these base-metal coins to be produced outside of Philadelphia was the 1908-S Indian Cent. Hailing from the San Francisco Mint, the 1908-S marked a new era for the United States Mint, as base-metal coinage production was soon to become a standard matter. This was further cemented in 1909, the year that saw the production of 1909-S Indian Cents, among the last coins to be minted for the series.
The 1908-S saw a mintage of just over one million while the 1909-S saw a much more meager output of barely over 300,000 pieces. Both S-mint issues saw considerably smaller mintages than had become customary for the Indian Cent at that time, especially as Philadelphia was routinely churning out more than 50 million pieces each year during most of the previous decade. Today, the 1908-S and 1909-S are regarded as scarce collectibles among series enthusiasts. Both issues rank as tough semi-key dates outranked in overall modern-day rarity and demand only by the series’ regular-issue key 1877 Indian Cent.
With its mintage of 1,115,000 pieces, the 1908-S represents the third-lowest mintage of the series behind the 1877 and the 1909-S, details of which will be discussed shortly and in greater detail. The 1908-S is widely considered a numismatically significant coin as the first of the minor denominations to be struck outside of the Philadelphia Mint. The coin’s prominence ensures its popularity with collectors, and this is one reason even moderately circulated specimens regularly trade for three figures. Most specimens exist in the grades of Fine to Extremely Fine, with prices for these coins generally hovering between $100 and $175.
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