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Flying Eagle Cents:
By 1854 the number of industrial uses for copper was growing and so was the price of copper. The US Mint was losing money on every Large Cent struck. The Large Cent had been minted since 1793 and the Mint was looking for not only a different design, but a different coin. Chief Mint Engraver James B. Longacre went about designing a radically different coin.
Longacre designed a “Flying Eagle” coin that was smaller than the Large Cent and made of 88% Copper and 12% Nickel instead of 100% Copper. Now the US Mint to strike these coins profitably. The Mint struck less than 1,000 1856 Flying Eagle pattern cents and shared them with President Franklin Pierce and select members of Congress seeking their approval and acceptance.
By 1857, the Mint began striking quantities of these coins, but they had trouble striking the new design using the harder copper-nickel alloy metal. Dies would wear out and break much faster than when striking the old pure copper coins. The Mint tried making the relief lower and shallower but all to no avail. 1858 would be the last year of this very short-livid series of important and affordable coins.