Small cents were created in response to the increasing price of copper during the 19th century, as well as the rising costs connected with the fabrication and circulation of large cents.
The first small-cent design was the Flying Eagle, which was minted from 1856 to 1858. A mere 2,000 coins were produced the first year of issuance, making them very rare. Flying Eagles became far more common in 1857 and 1858. In fact, you can pick up a coin from these years for a relatively reasonable price.
Next came the Indian Head Cent, which was produced from 1859 until 1909.
After the Indian Head came the Lincoln Wheat Cent. Produced from 1909 until 1958, this was the first U.S. coin to depict a real person. An image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., eventually replaced the wheat-back image. In 2009, the Lincoln Cent was updated to honor the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. It remains the most minted coin in the world.