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Indian Head Penny

Hello All,

At a show this weekend, I got a rather unusual request, and I wanted
to put it out there in case anyone has any advice before I start.

A coin collector came to me with an 1857 Indian Head penny, and he
wants to make it into a tie tack. There’s an eagle on one side, and
he wants me to pierce the eagle out, and solder a finding on the
other side. I’m not sure exactly what the metal of the coins were at
that time, I don’t think it was just plain copper. Anyone know what
they were made of, and (most importantly) does any one know if
there’s anything I need to be wary of, or do special for this
project? In case it matters, I normally work in silver, but I’ve
worked in other metals now & then, too (copper, gold, nickel, brass).
I’m guessing the finding I put on it will be nickel.


Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Copper coins of that era are generally 97.5% copper and the rest
mostly tin so it is a bronze coin. MP will be about the same as for
sterling silver so an easy solder will do nicely.



If this is an 1857 one cent then it is not an Indian head penny but
instead a Flying Eagle cent. These coins where made with 88% copper
and 12% nickel. Are you sure this person is a collector? This is a
collectible coin with the lowest qualities worth $20.00 to $25.00 and
the upper conditions in the thousands. If this person is not truly a
collector you should advise him or her to have a professional coin
dealer look at it first.

Greg DeMark

The first Google hit for “1857 penny composition” is this:

Looks like this penny is 88% Copper, 12% Nickel. Or possibly bronze.
Since the change was in 1857, I’m not 100% sure how to interpret
what they say, but you can tell by the color.

Are you sure about the date? Indian Heads were produced starting in
1859. If it’s 1857, it should be a Flying Eagle, relatively rare,
and worth about $10.00.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ

Trivia for the day - copper pennies are made of:
1793 to 1837 - pure copper
1837 to 1857 - bronze (95 percent copper, five percent tin and zinc)
1857 - 88% copper 12% nickel
1864 to 1962 - bronze (exception: in 1943 - some were zinc coated
1962 to 1982 - bronze with tin removed to result in 95% copper 5%
1982 to present - 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper

It now costs the US Mint 1.7 cents to manufacture a penny.

I made a lot of Indian Head Penny tie tacks, button covers and
earrings back in the mid-80’s. Treat the penny as you would copper.
Anneal and quench before piercing. I soldered nickel tie tack posts
with hard silver solder with no problems. You will get a fantastic
finish by just rolling it in steel shot. Lacquer or use Renaissance
wax to maintain the shiny finish.

Its In The Works Studio

It now costs the US Mint 1.7 cents to manufacture a penny. 

I’m surprised there isn’t a rush to cash in melted down pennies.
Although illegal but so is stealing copper ground wire from power
poles and street lights putting utility workers in danger when they
work on them. I can’t help but chuckle when a would be copper thief
(crack head) gets zotted when trying to steal copper and cuts the
wrong wire.

The thieves are now having to burn off the insulation off copper
wire to disguise the source so they can cash it in. This burning
usually goes on in back yard of the house that they are cooking crack
in creating an even more dangerous situation for the neighborhood.
It’s quite an epidemic in my city. A couple weeks ago there was a
bust including federal agents of a scrap metal dealer. I now have to
show a picture ID when cashing in my aluminum cans for recycling…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Thanks, folks, for your replies.

By the way, I’m calling it an “indian head penny” because I thought
that’s what he called it, and that’s the name that stuck in my head.
Maybe he called it something else, too, I don’t know. I really don’t
know anything about old coins, so perhaps that’s the wrong name.
“Flying Eagle” would make much more sense, since it does have a
flying eagle on the one side. The eagle is in fact what he wants me
to pierce out to make the tie tack. As far as whether he’s a
collector, all I can go on in that regard is what he told me, that he
is. The penny does have two large scratches on it, across the eagle,
so he told me he got it for a good price because it’s not worth much
to collectors in that condition. He said he thought it was bronze,
but I wanted to check here since I thought there might be folks more
knowlegeable about it that he, at least regarding the metallurgy.
You know how you sometimes wonder about the people you get
commissions from? Someone asks for custom work, you have a weird
feeling, you quote a price, hope they’ll lose interest, they walk
away, but then suddenly they’re back & want you to do the piece?
Can’t really say “no” at that point. It’s not a big job, at least,
just a test of my sawing skills, really.

Anyway, I guess I have at least learned that it shouldn’t be an
issue to solder it.

It now costs the US Mint 1.7 cents to manufacture a penny 

where’s the petition we can sign to stop the use of pennies, anyway?

Designs by Lisa Gallagher