- Have you seen the little "L" on Indian cents
struck since 1864 and wondered why it was there? This little "L" is emblazoned on the ribbon that descends from Miss Liberty's feathered headdress and traces down near the back (or right side) of her neck. It's a point of curiosity for many coin collectors, especially new ones who often believe it to be a mintmark, a minting error, or some type of counterstamp. So, why is there a lone "L" on most Indian cents
and what does it mean? Are Indian cents
with an "L" worth more than those without?The DL on the "L"
The Indian cent
was designed by James B. Longacre
and was initially released in 1859. Longacre, who designed many United States coins
that were released or redesigned in the mid-19th century, was certainly an accomplished coin designer in his own right. So, there was every reason to bestow him the privilege of having his surname initial "L" placed on the Indian cent
he designed and engraved. However, he wouldn't enjoy this honor until 1864, some five years after the Indian cent
had entered commerce.
The year 1864 marked two major milestones for the Indian cent
. Yes, there was the addition of Longacre's initial to the coin, but not long before that the denomination saw a significant change in its metallic alloy. When the first Small Cents were issued in 1856 with the release of pattern Flying Eagle cents
, the coin had been minted with an 88% copper, 12% nickel alloy.
These copper-nickel cents are much lighter in color than the pure copper Large Cents they replaced in 1857. Additionally, the copper-nickel large cents are some 50% heavier than the bronze versions that replaced them, with the earlier Small Cents weighing in at 4.67 grams and the later bronze cents registering merely 3.11 grams on the scale.
While Indian cents
made in early 1864 are struck from the heavier, whiter-colored copper-nickel composition, this changed mid-year to the darker, lighter-weight bronze cent; in turn, the obverse of the Indian cent
received a redesign that includes sharper details on the portrait of Miss Liberty (namely a pointed tip on the bust under her face) and the addition of Longacre's "L" initial on the descending headdress ribbon.Read the Entire Article