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Flying Eagle Cent Replaces Bulky Large Cents

By Michael Zielinski

A problem with the one cent denomination had been slowly developing for many years during the 19th century that would finally lead the US Mint to take action. Besides being unpopular with the public due to their bulky weight and size, the coins were not even legal tender. This led many banks to refuse to accept the large cents outright. Others would only accept the coins at a discount to the face value or the value of other circulating gold and silver coins of the era. Finally, the increasing cost of copper made the coins unprofitable for the United States Mint to produce. It cost more than $1.06 to produce 100 of the large cents.

It was clearly time for a change. There were many different compositions considered over the course of several years. This included an alloy called German Silver and another known as billon. These contained different amounts of silver, copper, nickel, tin, and zinc. After some trial and error, it was decided that an alloy of 88% copper and 12% nickel would be used.

To go with the different composition and the smaller size, there would also be a new design for the coins. This design would feature a flying eagle on the obverse and a wreath of corn, wheat, and tobacco on the reverse. This was designed by James B. Longacre. The obverse was designed after silver dollars from the 1830′s.

A relatively large number of 1856 dated pattern coins for the new composition, size, and format were produced to show to Congress and other influential individuals. The design and format proved acceptable and the coins were produced for circulation in the following year.

The public was enthusiastic about the release of the new coins. When they were first available for circulation in 1857, the Mint set up booths in the Mint yard in order to facilitate exchanges with the public. New Flying Eagle Cents were exchanged for old copper cents and foreign silver coins. The newspapers of the day provided coverage of the new design launch and called the coins “nickels” due to their composition.

Find more details on the release of the Flying Eagle Cents, including important issues like the 1858 Flying Eagle Cent and other highlights of the series.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Zielinski, Michael "Flying Eagle Cent Replaces Bulky Large Cents." Flying Eagle Cent Replaces Bulky Large Cents. 26 Jun. 2010. 17 Jul 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Zielinski, M (2010, June 26). Flying Eagle Cent Replaces Bulky Large Cents. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Zielinski, Michael "Flying Eagle Cent Replaces Bulky Large Cents"

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