Flying Eagle Cent
The Flying Eagle coin series was minted for circulation out of the
need to reduce the cost of production of the larger US one cent
denomination. Since 1793, the one cent coins were struck in copper with
approximate weight range from 10.93 grams to around 13.48 grams and
diameter range from 26.5 mm to 28.5 mm. Coins of this size and weight
proved to be costly in the long run and more so when the price of copper
went up. Moreover, the Liberty bust designs in this coin series received
a lot of criticisms from the general public. The US Mint tried to please
the public by changing the designs, making a few alterations or
additions here and there. But eventually, they gave in to the public and
to the rising cost of production and thought of a new coin.
Several propositions were made regarding the metal composition to be
used in the new coinage. Bronze, copper, nickel, silver and zinc were
the suggested metals for the metal combination. German silver, which is
composed of copper, nickel and zinc, was considered. Bullion was another
suggestion, which is made up of 10% silver and 90% copper. Until
finally, a copper-nickel combination was chosen by James Booth in 1856
and the Flying Eagle Cent was born.
The first Flying Eagle Cents were struck in 1856 as pattern coins to be
presented to the Congress for approval. There were about 2,000 1856
Flying Eagle minted both in proof format and circulation strike. For
some reason, these coins found their way in the circulation and people
thought that they are regular issues in limited edition. Mintage for
circulation purposes were struck in 1857 and 1858, with a total of
17,450,000 and 24,600,00 coins respectively. These were known as the
1857 Flying Eagle Cent issue and 1858 Flying Eagle Cent issue. During
these years, the Flying Eagle coins dated 1856 were also re-struck to
produce more 1856 Flying Eagle Cents.
All these Flying Eagle Cent issues bear on its obverse side the image of
a flying American Eagle designed by Christian Gobrecht. The reverse side
of the coin is adorned with a wreath of agricultural crops corn, cotton,
tobacco leaves and wheat and the words One Cent inside. The overall
design was made by James Barton Longacre.
The Flying Eagle design had a quite interesting background history. It
was modeled after a bald American Eagle that took shelter and lived in
the Philadelphia Mint for six years until he died in an accident with
some machinery in the building. People grew fond of the bird and named
him Peter. His body was preserved by Taxidermist and put on display at
the Mint, where he remains up to this day.