Ed. note: This article is periodically updated to reflect the current price of most valuable coins.
These pennies are probably the most collected American coins in the world. Due to their common circulation (because of their low value) they are usually found quite worn, which is why conservation is one of the most important factors for their higher price.
Other factors that influence the value of Indian Head pennies are the patina and certain errors that can greatly increase their value due to the high demand from collectors.
1902 Indian Head Penny Value
Coleccionistasdemonedas.com Estimated Value of 1902 Indian Head Penny is:
|1902-Indian Head Penny Value||MS60||MS61||MS62||MS63||MS64||MS65||MS66||MS67|
|1902- Patina BN (brown)||$50||$55||$60-62||$65-70||$90-100||$150-190||$340|
|1902- Patina RB (red and brown)||$55||$60||$65-67||$75-85||$115-135||$215-350||$500-1000|
|1902- Patina RD (red)||$65||$70||$75-85||$130-160||$250-300||$525-850||$2000-2750||$20,000-40,000|
Note: BN, RB, and RD patina are concepts detailed in the article. Read on to learn more.
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A little history about the Indian Head Penny
Indian Head pennies, also called Indian cents, were minted between 1859 and 1909. The great majority were manufactured at the Philadelphia mint, hence there are cases such as the Indian Head Penny from 1902 in which there is no mint mark (factory). On the other hand, in the last years of issue of this design, there are examples minted in San Francisco and marked on the reverse with the S mint mark.
The design was carried out by James Barton Longacre, the same designer of the Flying Eagle Cents, i.e. the previous type.
Composition and materials of the Flying Eagle Cents
The importance of the Flying Eagle Cents lies in the change from a 100% copper coin to a 12% nickel coin. This change was due to the increase in the value of copper due to the depreciation of gold, which was found in large quantities during the California Gold Rush, an event of great importance in the United States.
The nickname ‘Flying Eagle Cent’ is because, although the first Indian Head Penny was also composed of 88% copper and weighed 4.70g, the Civil War meant that the other percent of nickel was required for the war. Thus, the congressional solution came in 1864, reducing the weight of the Indian Head Penny, but increasing its copper content.
Thus, from then until the end of the issuance of this coin, the Indian Head Penny has 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc, removing the nickel from the alloy. Such is the case with our coin of interest, the 1902 Indian Head Penny which, like the others, has a weight of 3.11g.
How much is a 1902 Indian Head penny worth?
1902 is one of the last years in which this design was minted, ending in 1909. This is why it is a relatively easy specimen to obtain, even in good condition. This makes the price of a 1902 Indian Head Penny quite stable, with no major inflations or drops in value.
Reviewing some auctions of the last few years we can see this reflected:
Taking as an example a 1902 Indian Head Penny MS64BN and a 2018 auction from David Lawrence Auction House and a 2021 auction from Heritage Auctions, we can see that there is only a $10 difference between them, something that is repeated with other grades and patinas. Here are these examples:
- 2018 David Lawrence RC (Internet Auction #1026) 1902 Indian Head Penny MS64BN $55 (reference).
- 2021 Heritage Auctions (Internet U.S. Coin Auction #132101) 1902 Indian Head Penny MS64BN $65 (reference)
1902 Penny with Indian Head – Types of Patina
The 1902 Indian Head Penny is very plentiful, with a mintage of 87,374,704 coins. In addition, there are no multiple mints for their manufacture, a typical factor that distinguishes American coins in price. Therefore, one must look at other differences to determine a higher or lower value.
The main one is the quality, as in any other coin, as we will see later, but now let’s talk about the patina.
The patina is, simply explained, the tone or color of the coin. Specifically, it is the result of the oxidation of the metal due to its contact with air and other elements that cause discoloration. An original patina, generated by the years of “life” of the coin, is highly valued by collectors – this is why a coin should never be cleaned without consulting an expert, since in the great majority of cases you will greatly diminish its value.
In the 1902 Indian Head Penny, due to its high copper content (95%), there are mainly three different patinas. These are collected by three different abbreviations, BN, RB and RD. Each one is more complex to find than the previous one, which is why the price increases in line with the difficulty of obtainment.
- BN: This patina is brown, and is the most common of the three. Visually it is the one that looks the most aged and, in fact, is the color that copper coins normally take on over time. You can check your current pennies and see how many have this dark, yet attractive color.
In some specimens with this patina that have not been circulated very often, greenish or bluish colors can be seen, normal in this metal, which make it much more striking.
- RB: This is the abbreviation for Red and Brown, i.e., like the previous patina, it is a brown specimen, but retains the typical reddish tones of a newly minted copper coin.
It is the result of better environmental conservation, or at least with less exposure to humidity and oxygen than the previous one, regardless of whether a BN has hardly circulated, but has been stored in a humid place.
This makes it somewhat rarer than the previous one and therefore costs a little more money.
- RD: It is the red patina that copper coins have when they are newly minted, the rarity of this patina is the difficulty for a coin to be preserved with that tone for so many years.
The RD patina is the most expensive of the three, being the most appreciated by collectors.
To preserve the actual patina of our coins it is important to keep them in a stable and controlled place. That is why certified capsules are a great option both for this and to know the grade, as we will see below.
How do I know the quality of my Indian Head Penny from 1902?
The higher the graduation, the higher the price increases exponentially, since it is a factor of great importance, especially in coins that tend to circulate a lot, as is the case of cents.
To know the state of conservation of the coin we own or want to buy we need to have an expert eye that we can hardly acquire without time and experience. That is why it is not a bad idea to resort to TPG (Third Party Grading Service). These are companies dedicated to evaluating and giving a score to our coins according to their condition. In addition, they certify the authenticity and encapsulate the coin for security purposes, both for its preservation and to facilitate its sale.
Valuable errors in the 1902 Indian Head Penny
The 1902 Indian Head Penny is not a common error coin, it is quite rare to find one with a mintage flaw. It is therefore a factor that greatly increases the price of this coin.
Although there are no exclusive error characteristics of these 1902 coins, we can find some specimens with this error in common:
A phenomenon that delights error collectors is when a coin has been minted incorrectly and the design has been displaced from its original location. This error can be very slight and almost unnoticeable, but in some cases it can be greater than 50% of the original design.
Its price is difficult to calculate because it depends on the specimen, its degree of offset and the offer of the collector who is looking for the particular piece. For example, the coin in the photograph is a certified MS64 BN quality specimen with a 15% offset, and the asking price for it is $450. However, a specimen with the same patina and quality, but with a higher offset, 20%, reaches $725.
If you find something out of the ordinary on your coin, do not hesitate to consult an expert, you may be facing a more unknown error!
A final thought about the 1902 Indian Head Penny
As mentioned at the beginning, pennies are widely collected, and are a great way to get started in collecting. In particular the Indian Head Penny are visually beautiful, not highly priced, and also of great historical significance. They were the pennies of the Civil War and although they stopped being minted in 1909, the Indian cent circulated for many more years.
The 1902 Indian Head Penny is rather common, so it is definitely a good choice to get started in collecting.
References and sources
- Heritage Auctions
- NGC Coins
- David Lawrence Rare Coins
- The Official Red book 2023: A Guide Book of United States Coins.
Numismatic collector with special interest in the history of Spain.
Graduated in Labor Relations and Human Resources. I have been trained in numismatics by the University of Murcia. I am a specialist in Spanish currency (from the Catholic Kings to today), euros and large silver modules.