Flying Eagle Cent
- Weight: 4.67 grams
- Diameter: 19 mm
- Edge: Plain
- Composition: 88% copper, 12% nickel
- Designer: James B. Longacre
- Mint Mark Location: No mint marks used; all coined at Philadelphia Mint.
The 1856 Flying Eagle cent was not an authorized mint issue, as the law governing the new coin was not enacted until February 1857. Col. J.R. Snowden, the Director, minted the coins in quantity in order to provide one or more specimens for every Congressman and Senator and high politician in the Treasury Department. They are properly referred to as "patterns." The intent was that every one would become familiar with the size and how the nickel cent would look. Additional proof pieces were struck for sale to collectors. A quantity of 1856 Flying Eagle cents went into circulation during the Civil War.
The Flying Eagle design was an adaptation of Gobrecht's dollar reverse, made by J.B. Longacre. The wreath on the reverse is the same as the one he had put on the three-dollar pieces. The reverse is adorned with a wreath of corn, wheat, cotton and tobacco.
This short-lived series is very popular with collectors. It is estimated that approximately six hundred regular strikes of the 1856 cent were made along with about one thousand proof examples. Some of these coins may have been struck as late as 1860 for collectors. Because few were made, the proofs of 1857 and 58 are much rarer than the proof of 1856. The 1857 proof cent is the scarcest of all.