Flying Eagle PennyThe first Flying Eagle Penny was issued in 1856 to demonstrate the concept of the small sized one-cent coin. Until this point, the denomination had been represented by the large cent, which had proved bulky in everyday commerce and had become more expensive to produce than its face value. Following a positive reception, the small cent was adopted for circulation in the following year.
The design featured an image of a flying eagle on the obverse with the words "United States of America" above and the date below. The reverse of the coin featured an agricultural wreath encircling the denomination of "One Cent". The coin was designed by James B. Longacre, who would also create the designs for other early U.S. coin series.
A composition of 88% copper and 12% nickel was used to strike the Flying Eagle Penny. Each coin had a weight of 4.67 grams and diameter of 19 mm with a plain edge.
The first coins of the series were struck carrying the 1856 date and actually represent a pattern. After the production of a limited number of pieces for members of Congress and other individuals, the US Mint would later restrike additional pieces specifically for collectors. With an overall estimated mintage of approximately 2,000 pieces, the 1856 Flying Eagle Penny is considered a rare key date.
The series would be struck for general circulation in 1857 and 1858 in relatively high numbers. These coins are affordable in circulated grades, but can become expensive in higher mint state grades. After these two years, the series would conclude, to be replaced with the Indian Head Cent in the following year.
The Flying Eagle Penny represents an important step in the development of the United States coinage system and is a favorite of many collectors.