Flying Eagle cents more varied than you may
By Eric Von Klinger
COIN WORLD Staff
The Flying Eagle cent series is richer in
die varieties than many collectors realize,
especially for the final year, 1858.
A set has always been considered complete
only with the addition of an 1856 pattern,
even though the Flying Eagle type was coined
for circulation only in 1857 and 1858. Then
many collectors attach this set in their
minds to the Indian Head cents that follow,
so the Flying Eagle cents seem like orphans
left at an alleyway onto a broader avenue.
Yet the single year 1858 offers its own
challenges to the collector.
First, consider that from long ago the
Large Letters and Small Letters varieties
have been accorded as much significance as
major early subtypes within other series
(e.g., Mound and Plain reverses on Indian
Head 5-cent coins).
In the case of the cents, the Large
Letters obverse is the same subtype as that
of 1857. The Small Letters obverse was not
created until sometime in the course of 1858
The difference is not great. Many quickly
seek confirmation in the advice given in
A Guide Book of United States Coins: on
the Large Letters obverse, the a and m of
america are joined at their bases.
Differences extend to the eagle, which
was copied from Christian Gobrecht's
rendition on silver dollars of the 1830s.
The Large Letters obverse is maybe a bit
more faithful to this original in a few
details: the upper beak extends below the
lower one, and the lower beak appears
slightly more pointed. The neck feathers are
rougher-looking and stick out in places.
It is believed that then-new Assistant
Engraver Anthony C. Paquet supplied the
letter punches for the Small Letters
obverse, Q. David Bowers writes in A
Guide Book of Flying Eagle and Indian Head
1858 Flying Eagle cent combines a Large
Letters obverse with a High Leaves
reverse. Note that the leaves at c and t
of cent rise higher than the base of the
Two reverses also were used for 1858.
The first, or "High Leaves," reverse is
in somewhat higher relief. A single leaf
climbs upward past the base of the c in
cent, and another climbs to very near the
right side of the base of the t. This
reverse was used on all issues of 1857 and
some of 1858.
The second, or "Low Leaves," reverse was
introduced in the course of 1858. The wreath
is in shallower relief. The leaves at the c
and t of cent end below the base of the
letters. This reverse was used only in 1858
but, like the first reverse, it can be found
paired with either the Large Letters or the
Small Letters obverse.
After it was used for a while, the
second, Low Leaves reverse was modified
further, to make what Richard E. Snow in
The Flying Eagle & Indian Cent Attribution
Guide calls "Type 3." On it, the serifs
on the right side of the e in one are
farther apart, more like the e in cent. The
entire denomination was made shallower.
Oddly, someone or other in Mint employ
either sought to undo this modification or
was unmindful that a new hub was to be used.
Some dies that were first hubbed with the
Low Leaves, "Open E" design were then
rehubbed with the older, "Closed E" design,
or at the least were reworked with a "Closed
Clearly, this use of two obverse hubs and
three reverse hubs in the same year, with an
assortment of pairings, would be enough to
keep a collector searching for differences
among 1858 Flying Eagle cents.
Letters obverse is combined with a Low
Leaves reverse. Note that the leaves
near the c and t of cent do not reach as
high as the letters.
Now add, to those hub varieties, other
differences such as doubled dies and even an
The Snow 1 overdate, 1858/7, was
virtually unknown until the 1960s but gained
Even in the earliest of die states, State
A, the right upper tip of a 7 shows only
weakly like a "horn" at the upper right tip
of the 8.
In State B, only a vestige of the 7 is
left, showing as a dash-like mark.
A small, raised, pellet-shaped mark is
found on this obverse die. It is nearly
centered over the date, about midway between
the date and the juncture of the leg with
the torso. This is a die chip or possibly,
as Snow and researcher Larry Steve have
surmised, the left base of a misplaced
numeral 1. It fades until, in State C, it is
a mere dot.
This overdate, as one might expect, is on
a Large Letters obverse. It is paired with a
High Leaves reverse.
Snow also has cataloged his Snow 7 for
the year as an overdate, 8/7, identified as
such in 1994. The purported 7 is exceedingly
weak. The entire obverse was lightly
hub-doubled, with the doubling showing
slightly at uni of united, and the 1 in the
date is lightly repunched.
Snow has counted six other doubled die
obverses, including one paired with a
doubled die reverse, and an additional
variety has a doubled die reverse only.
The doubling on all the doubled die
varieties is minor.
At the time of publication of his 1856 to
1858 attribution guide, in 2001, Snow listed
13 varieties of 1858 Flying Eagle, Large
Letters cents made as circulation strikes.
1858/7 overdate variety, Snow 1 for the
year, was not accepted as an overdate
until well into the 20th century.
All Proof 1858, Flying Eagle, Large
Letters cents are from a single pair of
dies, with a doubled die obverse and a High
Leaves reverse, Snow concluded.
Moving on to 1858 Small Letters
varieties, he lists four die pairings for
the Proofs, only one of those being with a
High Leaves reverse.
For circulation strikes, the book
catalogs nine varieties, only one of which
has High Leaves. The High Leaves reverse is
paired with one of the more prominent
doubled die obverse dies for the year. The
doubling is most notable on the word united.