1856 Flying Eagle Cent: Do You Need This in Your Collection?

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Written By Natasha Jones
I'm Natasha Jones, an avid collector of coins, stamps, and paper money. My passion drives me to seek unique finds, from antique shops to international exchanges. I enjoy connecting with fellow collectors through forums and meet-ups, sharing discoveries and insights. Collecting, for me, is about preserving history and building a community around this shared interest.

How rare is the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent? As a coin collector, I have always been fascinated by the history and rarity of various coins.

This coin, which was minted for only three years, is known for its unique design and limited mintage. But just how rare is the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent?

Key Takeaways:

1. The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is a short-lived design that is known for its unique design and limited mintage.
2. Rarity factors such as mintage numbers, survival estimates, and market value all play a role in determining the rarity of the coin.
3. Overall, the rarity of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is a complex topic that requires careful consideration of multiple factors.

History of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent

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Image by PCGS

The Flying Eagle Cent was first minted in 1856 and was designed by James Barton Longacre, who was then the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. 

This coin was introduced to replace the large cent, which was too heavy and cumbersome for everyday use.

The Flying Eagle Cent was smaller and lighter, making it more convenient for commerce. 

The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent was the first year of issue and was only struck in limited quantities.

The coin was made of copper-nickel and had a diameter of 19mm and a weight of 4.7 grams. 

The obverse of the coin featured an eagle in flight, hence the name Flying Eagle Cent.

The reverse of the coin featured a wreath surrounding the denomination of “one cent.”

The Flying Eagle Cent was only produced for three years, from 1856 to 1858, before the Indian Head Cent replaced it.

Despite its short production run, the Flying Eagle Cent remains a popular coin among collectors.

One of the reasons for its popularity is its rarity.

The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent has a low mintage of only 634, making it a scarce coin.

Additionally, many of the surviving examples are in poor condition, further increasing its rarity.

Another reason for its popularity is its historical significance.

The Flying Eagle Cent was the first small cent produced by the US Mint and paved the way for the modern penny we use today.

Overall, the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is a rare and historically significant coin that collectors highly sought after.

Its limited mintage and short production run make it a valuable addition to any collection.

Rarity Factors

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When it comes to determining the rarity of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent, there are several factors to consider.

These factors include mintage, survival rate, and condition.

Mintage

According to PCGS, the mintage number for this coin is said to be 634 coins only!

So, if we’re going to talk about rare coins, this might be one of the lowest mintages!

Survival Rate

The survival rate of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is relatively low, as many of the coins were likely lost or destroyed over time.

However, the survival rate is not as low as one might expect, given the coin’s rarity.

This is likely due to the fact that the coin was relatively new at the time of its production and was still in circulation.

Condition

The condition of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is a significant factor in its rarity.

Most of the surviving coins are in poor condition, with many showing significant wear and damage. 

However, there are a few examples of coins in excellent condition, which collectors highly seek after.

Overall, the rarity of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is due to a combination of factors, including its low mintage, relatively low survival rate, and the condition of the surviving coins. 

While the coin is not the rarest in the world, it is still highly prized by collectors and is an essential part of American numismatic history.

Mintage and Survival Estimates

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Image by PCGS

Mintage Numbers

The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent marked the introduction of the first small-sized one-cent coin by the United States Mint. 

This coin was crafted from a copper-nickel composition and featured the design work of James B. Longacre.

It’s worth noting that approximately 1,000 1856 Flying Eagle Cents were produced by Mint Director James Ross Snowden without formal authorization. 

Consequently, from a legal standpoint, one could argue that all 1856 Flying Eagle Cents may be deemed as having been illegally struck and issued due to this lack of official approval.

Survival Estimates

The immense popularity of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent can be primarily attributed to its incredibly limited mintage.

This figure stands as the lowest production quantity among all dates in the small cent series.

Remarkably, it’s believed that only approximately 100 specimens of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent have endured to the present day, with the majority of them being in less-than-pristine conditions. 

This exceptional rarity has elevated the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent to the status of one of the most coveted coins among collectors.

According to PCGS CoinFacts, the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent boasts a survival estimate of merely 0.2% when considering all grades combined.

This coin’s scarcity extends across all grade levels, making it nearly impossible to come across a high-grade example. 

Additionally, the coin enjoys significant popularity among investors and has been known to command substantial prices at auctions.

Market Value and Auction Records

GradesPrice as of October 2023
Good (G-4)$8,715
Very Good (VG-8)$9,902
Fine (F-12)$12,130
Very Fine (VF-20)$14,204
Extremely Fine (EF-40)$15,483
About Uncirculated (AU-50)$16,995
Uncirculated (MS-60)$18,763
Brilliant Uncirculated (MS-63)$28,597
Proof (PR-63)$20,437

When it comes to the market value of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent, it is important to note that this coin is considered to be quite rare.

As a result, it cannot be easy to find this coin on the market, and when it does appear, it often commands a high price.

According to USA Coin Book, as of October 2023, the average price for a circulated version of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is usually around $8,000-$16,000!

For uncirculated versions, it can go from $18,000 up to $28,000! And for proof coins, it is valued at $20,000 with a grade of PR-63!

According to their records, the highest auction record for an 1856 Flying Eagle Cent was $172,500 for an MS66 coin sold by Heritage Auctions in 2004.

Another source of information on market value is The Greysheet, which provides price ranges for various grades of the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent.

As of October 2023, their price range for an 1856 Flying Eagle Cent in Good condition is $1,200-$1,500, while an MS63 coin is valued at $30,000-$35,000.

It is important to note that market value can change in prices based on a variety of factors.

As a result, it is always a good idea to do your research and consult multiple sources when trying to determine the market value of a coin like the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent.

Before you go…

Overall, the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent is a rare and valuable coin that collectors highly prize. Its scarcity and historical significance make it a must-have for any serious collector of American coins!

Check out my next article: “Is the 1932 Washington Quarter Worth Collecting?

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