Eagle Cent Varieties Reasonable
By Paul M. Green
Eagle is not an especially rare date, but that
does not mean it has been ignored over the
years. As one of the few Flying Eagle cents, the
1858 has had a certain amount of demand even
though the Flying Eagle cent is not a heavily
collected set except as part of an Indian Head
The release of the first
1857 Flying Eagle cent
had been an event of some significance. A
nervous group of officials had clearly been
happy with the fact that the new Flying Eagle
cent was seemingly popular with the public.
Production was rushed in 1857 to meet what
seemed like a large demand.
Heavy production continued the next year with
the 24,600,000 mintage 1858, of which there are
two varieties. It comes with large letters where
the "A" and "M" in "America" are joined, or
small letters where they are separated.
We are not exactly sure of the varieties'
mintages, but historically they have been
treated as being about equally available.
Today's prices in G-4 are close, with the large
letter variety at $27.50 and the small letter
variety at $26. In MS-60 the large letter
variety is listed at $340, while the small
letter is $320. That sort of small difference
continues in MS-65 where the large letter is
$3,850 while the small letter is $3,650. When it
comes to proofs, the small letter is more
expensive at $30,000 while the large letter is
The high proof prices are a result of the fact
that at the time the idea of making proofs and
selling them to collectors was really just
taking hold. Any Flying Eagle cent in proof is a
very tough coin that is in great demand from
The prices of either variety of the 1858,
especially in Mint State, are lower than might
otherwise be the case. One reason is that, while
a two-year type, the Flying Eagle cent
fortunately had high mintages.
A second factor is that the Flying Eagle cent
was saved in some numbers both at the time it
was released and a few years after, as the
public hoarded copper-nickel cents. It was an
unexpected situation brought on by fears over
the Civil War.
At such times it's expected that gold and silver
will be hoarded, but no one anticipated that a
desperate public would also take to hoarding
cents. Later it appears that the novelty of the
first small-size cent that was produced for only
two years caused some collectors to save
quantities as well. The hoards might not have
been strictly of the 1858, but few coins in U.S.
history have so many and such varied reports on
hoards and small accumulations.
The situation makes either 1858 variety of the
Flying Eagle cent an interesting coin for any
collection. With reasonable prices, the 1858
varieties are a good purchase for every