Chris J. writes: I’m looking for information on a 1861 confederate penny with a picture of an indian on front and says 1861 and confederate states of america, the back simply has 1 CENT. I cannot find any info on this coin. Can you please help?
The New Orleans Mint was seized by the Confederacy in 1861 but they had no engraver to create new coin designs for the new political entity. The story of the confederate cent goes something like this:
Secret agents of the Confederacy approached Philadelphia engraver Robert Lovett through a contact at the jewelry firm of Bailey, Banks & Biddle and asked if he would be willing to create a design for a Confederate cent. Though Lovett actually went ahead with the project and even struck about a dozen specimens he never delivered the dies as he feared prosecution for treason. He hid the dies and sample coins in his basement where they remained hidden until 1873.
He kept one coin as a pocket piece and in 1873 accidentally spent it in a bar in West Philadelphia. The coin eventually came to the attention of collector Capt. John W. Haseltine who tracked down Lovett and talked him into selling him the dies and remaining coins. Haseltine restruck the coins in gold, silver and copper but no one knows how many he actually made. The Haseltine copper restrikes have a proof finish (mirror fields and struck more than one time). About 55 pieces were struck.
Other collectors subsequently owned the dies and eventually they were defaced with chisel and hammer marks. The dies were displayed by Judson Brenner at the American Numismatic Convention in 1911. The dies showed up again in 1961 and were in the possession of Robert Bashlow who made copies of the dies, damage and all, and struck copies for the Confederate centenary in 1961-62. The original Lovett dies now reside in the Smithsonian Institution.
All Confederate Cents show a bust of Liberty facing left wearing a Liberty Cap, the date 1861 is below, the legend around is CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. The reverse shows a wreath of corn, cotton, maple, tobacco and wheat, two barrels and a bale of cotton showing “L” for Lovett. 1 CENT is at center.
Here is a listing of the Confederate Cent varieties
- The original Lovett pieces in copper: 12 minted. uncirculated: approximate value: US $ 25,000 – $35,000
- Copper- proof striking-about 55 pieces struck – $3,000 – $6,000
- Gold – proof striking – about 7 pieces struck – $15,000 – $25,000
- Silver – proof striking – about 12 pieces struck – $4,000 – $7,000
Bashlow restrikes from defaced dies:
- Platinum – very rare – 3 pieces struck? – $?
- Gold – very rare – 3 pieces struck? – $?
- Silver – 5,000 pieces struck – $25.
- “Nickel Silver” maybe “German silver” – possibly 50 struck – $?
- Bronze – 20,000 struck – $5 – $10.
- Goldine (gold colored brass alloy) – 5,000 pieces struck – $10 – $15.
- Lead – 50 pieces struck – $?
- Zinc – 50 pieces struck -$?
- Red fiber – 50 pieces struck $?
According to Walter Breen, other strikes on other materials exist, including a few uniface impressions in gold and silver. Note that there have been many advertising copies and “confederate cent” fantasy pieces as well. These are of nominal value.
If you believe you have one of the above varieties you will want to have your coin authenticated and attributed. For more information see the listing for Grading Services on the Coinsite Links page.