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    Tied for Finest Known 1877 Cent, MS66 Red

    1877 1C MS66 Red PCGS. The many Mint Acts passed in U.S. history have had long-running and often unexpected repercussions for American coinage. The Mint Act of 1871, meant to give the Mint the legal ability to redeem and melt coins not issued in precious metal and reissue cents in their place, something that facility had done for several years before. All pieces redeemed in this fashion were melted until 1874, when the Mint began to pay older bronze cents back into circulation.
    While not so dramatic a bill as some other Mint Acts in U.S. history, the consequences of that piece of legislation were far-reaching. The Panic of 1873, brought on by a series of declines in the stock market and triggered by the failing of a single company, had a domino effect that created a four-year depression, which lasted until 1877. In the meantime, the glut of cents that had inspired the Mint Act of 1871 was easing, and in 1874, the Mint began to reissue bronze cents rather than melting and reminting them. As reissuing increased, production of new cents decreased, and the slowing economy only accelerated this trend.
    The low-mintage 1877 cent issue brought the trend to its ultimate conclusion. America was still in the midst of the depression, and silver coins were only beginning to circulate for the first time since the beginning of the Civil War. Of the almost 10 million cents turned into the Mint in 1877, over 9.8 million were paid back out, and the small supplemental mintage of cents for that year, stated at 852,500 pieces, was the smallest to that point in the small cent era. A number of prominent numismatic scholars, including noted expert Rick Snow, believe that even the stated mintage is too high. All known genuine 1877 cents are tied to a single reverse of a type last used five years before. At a time when a typical die's working life was in the low six figures, it seems highly improbable that this lone reverse die could last for so many pieces, especially since no known examples show significant die cracks or wear on that side. If the 1877 cent issue was struck from just one reverse die and that die had an average lifespan, the actual production for 1877 would be smaller than that of the 1909-S Indian, which is generally acknowledged as the lowest-mintage issue of the series.
    In his Introduction to Snow's A Guide Book of Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents (2006), Q. David Bowers offered sage sentences about just how elusive Uncirculated Indian cents are in the context of their broader mintages: "The survival of Mint State coins is a matter of chance--a piece put away in a cast-iron bank in the 1880s, or left in a box of keepsakes, or perhaps picked out of circulation by a coin collector. In proportion to the original mintage figures, only a tiny fraction of 1% of the various issues have survived in Mint State." It is easy to lose sight of such truths when looking at pages of carefully preserved pieces in an auction catalog, but facts remain facts, and at the highest grade levels, often only a handful of pieces exist, hardly enough to satisfy the demand from dozens of would-be buyers.
    Such conditions are only magnified when the issue under consideration is a key. The 1877 Indian cent, with its small starting population and its low rate of survival, has resulted in a tiny pool of high-grade representatives. While NGC has graded no pieces above MS65 with full Red color, PCGS has certified six examples as MS66 Red, including the present coin (6/07). The surfaces of this shining cent have vibrant copper-orange color that shows only the slightest hint of turning at the margins. The strike is sharp, which is particularly evident at the wingtips and the N in ONE, which has a solid outline despite this issue's diagnostic weakness at the lower right corner. A handful of pinpoint carbon flecks on the reverse are only appreciable under magnification. In sum, an unbeatable representative of the most challenging Indian cent issue and a grand opportunity for the dedicated collector of the series.
    From The Santa Fe Collection.(Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2284, PCGS# 2129)

    Weight: 3.11 grams

    Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & Zinc


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2007
    8th-10th Wednesday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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