Obverse. Photo © PCGS CoinFacts
  • 1 Cent 1856-1858, KM# 85, United States of America (USA)
  • 1 Cent 1856-1858, KM# 85, United States of America (USA)
  • 1 Cent 1856-1858, KM# 85, United States of America (USA), 1858: Small letters (left), Large letters (right)
Description

The Flying Eagle cent is a one-cent piece struck by the Mint of the United States as a pattern coin in 1856, and for circulation in 1857 and 1858. The coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre, with the eagle in flight based on the work of Longacre's predecessor, Christian Gobrecht.
By the early 1850s, the large cent (about the size of a half dollar) being issued by the Mint was becoming both unpopular in commerce and expensive to coin. After experimenting with various sizes and compositions, the Mint decided on an alloy of 88% copper and 12% nickel for a new, smaller cent.

The new cent was issued in exchange for the worn Spanish colonial silver coin that had circulated in the U.S. until then, as well as for its larger predecessor. So many cents were issued that they choked commercial channels, especially as they were not legal tender and no one had to take them. The eagle design did not strike well, and was replaced in 1859 by Longacre's Indian Head cent.

Obverse

Eagle in flight.

The design is based on the Gobrecht dollar, struck in small quantities from 1836 to 1839. Although Gobrecht's model is not known with certainty, some sources state that the bird in flight was based on Peter the eagle, a tame bird fed by Mint workers in the early 1830s until it was caught up in machinery and killed. The bird was stuffed, and is still displayed at the Philadelphia Mint.

The two major varieties of 1858, Large letters and Small letters, are reasonably easy to identify: on the Large letter variety, the “A” and “M” in “America” are connected at their bases; on the Small letter variety, the two letters are separated.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
1856

Reverse

Denomination enclosed by wreath.

ONE
CENT

Edge

1 Cent

Flying Eagle Cent
KM# 85
Characteristics
Material Cupronickel
Weight 4.67 g
Diameter 19 mm
Thickness -
Shape round
Alignment Coin
Mint
Philadelphia Mint (no mintmark)

Related coins

Draped Bust Large Cent

Copper, 10.89 g, ⌀ 29 mm
Coronet Large Cent / Matron Head

Copper, 10.89 g, ⌀ 28.5 mm
Braided Hair Cent

Bronze, 10.89 g, ⌀ 27.5 mm