1898 Indian Head Cent Obverse

Indian Head Pennies: Grading Standards Have Fallen, But Is There A Good Reason?

Indian Head pennies hold a special place in the hearts of many collectors. There are many coin collectors and dealers alike who can remember a time, when they were young, finding Indian Head pennies in pocket change. In fact, for many the love of numismatics started that way.

If you’ve been collecting long, and if you know the Indian Head penny series well, you’ve no doubt noticed the falling standards by all the major grading services.

Here’s an example:

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Indian Head pennies needed a full or nearly full Liberty for a Very Fine (VF) grade.

Now a coin with a full bold “LIBERTY” is at least an Extra Fine (XF), and Very Fine coins are missing anywhere from 1-6 letters.

Why is this happening? How does this affect the old and new collectors?

To answer the first question, consider the supply. As the years wear on, fewer and fewer Indian Head Pennies still need certifying. Many of the nicer coins and scarcer dates have already been put in holders. Still others that are still raw are locked in a vault somewhere. The grading services are getting fewer orders than they used to, and for coins that are simply not as nice.

If this appears at first like bad news, maybe it’s not. No matter how the grading standards shift, your certified coin will continue to have as many letters in “LIBERTY” as it has today. And as long as the world agrees that an XF is an XF is an XF, then we can create price points for various grades.

New collectors will have an easier time collecting a particular grade, but when comparing apples to apples, old holders will reign supreme.

For those collectors who had their Indian Head Pennies graded long ago, an update may been in order. Your XF may be an AU by today’s standards. But even if you keep your original holder, dealers and savvy collectors alike will know to add a premium, because your VF is really an XF now.

Ultimately the shift requires adjustment, but doesn’t mean much to the value of your collection, or the prospects of acquiring one.

-Joe Palmieri

About Beantown Coins:

Beantown Coins was established in 2011 as a way for the proprietors to share their unique inventory and the skill of their staff with the general public. David Leventhal, the son of a coin dealer, has himself been a full-time numismatist (coin dealer) since 1979. David’s father, Edwin Leventhal founded, and operated for over 30 years, J.J. Teaparty, Boston’s oldest and largest rare coin dealers. Before it’s sale to new owners, David was employed at J.J. Teaparty by his father in all aspects of numismatics, including acting as an agent for buyers at auction. He has extensive experience in all categories of rare and collectible coins and brings his skill in grading to verifying their entire inventory. According to co-founder Joe Palmieri, “We will continue Indian Head Pennies to represent the high standards of generations of merchants of our trade, and we are becoming a major presence in rare coins, online.”

Call Us Today BeanTown Coins

180 Old Colony Road, Quincy, MA 02171
(857) 294-7820

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