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1858 Flying Eagle cents more varied than you may think

By Eric Von Klinger

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 production.

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 Cents.

1858 Flying Eagle

This 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 letters.

Two reverses

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 E" punch.

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.

1858 Flying Eagle

A Small 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 overdate.

The Snow 1 overdate, 1858/7, was virtually unknown until the 1960s but gained quick popularity.

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 Flying Eagle Overdate

This 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.

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