For a more in depth look at originality traits, visit Rick Snow's webpage which discusses the two obverse dies used to strike MS 1877s. All non-proof 1877 Indian Cents were struck from a single reverse die with a shallow N in ONE (see Authenticity Traits below). Most of the coins from this die display light clashmarks above and to the left of the O in ONE (see Reverse Clashes below). This reverse die is unknown with any die cracks, a curious feature for an era when the average working die life was usually no more than 200,000 pieces. Richard Snow poses an interesting question: How could nearly a million cents be struck from the same die without the development of any significant die wear or cracks? As a possible answer he postulates that the real mintage of the 1877 Indian Cent may be even less than what has been traditionally reported.
More evidence that the mintage may be less than reported, as well as a first hand account of how quickly they vanished from circulation, is found in an excerpt from The Numismatist (1915) in Q. David Bowers' A Buyer's and Enthusiast's Guide to Flying Eagle and Indian Cents. A correspondent from the New York Sun, noticing how few 1877s showed up in circulation in the late 19th century, kept records of large samples of Indian cents he procured from the bank. These were his results:
In 1881 he sampled 1250 cents and found 6 (.0048%)
In 1883 he sampled 2950 cents and found 11 (.0037%)
In 1884 he sampled 7500 cents and found 24 (.0032%)
In 1896 he sampled 10100 cents and found 24 (.0023%)
In 1897 he sampled 28450 cents and found 35 (.0012%)