The Act of Feb 21, 1857,
mandated that a smaller diameter cent made of copper-nickel be
coined. The Large Cent, a staple in US coinage since 1793, had become
too costly to
US Coin Values Advisor has completed Coin
Value Tables for the Flying Eagle Cent, reporting price trends
over a long period of time for individual coins of this series.
Legend has it that Peter the Eagle was the model for the bird on the coin. Peter was a bald eagle who took up residence inside the original Philadelphia mint building around 200 years ago. Peter was mortally wounded when he was caught in some machinery. Taxidermists preserved Peter, and today he is on display at the current Philadelphia Mint. In the 1880's, Mint researcher George G. Evans wrote this about Peter:
Near the exit door of
the Cabinet, in a large
glass case, is a magnificent American eagle, which is worthy of the
visitor's attention. It is superbly mounted, with grand breadth of wing
and wondrous piercing eyes. The portrait of this "pet" can be
recognized on the reverse of the pattern silver dollars of 1836-1839
and on the obverse of the 1856 flying eagle cent.
Peter, The Mint Eagle
Peter the Mint Eagle waits in
the wings beside U.S. Mint
Director Henrietta Holsman Fore at the rollout ceremony for the
California state quarter in 2005.
Today, Peter has
a mascot of sorts for the Mint, portrayed as a
cartoon narrator in
educational outreach programs geared for young people. It seems as long
as there is the US Mint, Peter's memory will be preserved.
Most eBay coin auctions involving the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent are for self-described replicas of the famous coin. Primarily, these are curiosities and have no numismatic value to speak of. Once in a while, the real deal will make an appearance. The left hand side of the "Sales Box" is value trend data over a very long period of time for an 1856 Flying Eagle cent in Good-4 condition. The percent annual increase is computed for comparative purposes. The coin pictured for sale in the right hand side is not necessarily a G-4 example of the 1856 Flying Eagle cent.