UNITED STATES LARGE CENTS
One of the first coins struck at
the U.S. Mint was the Large Cent. This large, clunky copper coin was
struck from 1793 to 1857, inclusive, with the exception of 1815, when a fire
forced the closing of the Mint.
Three design types appeared in
1793, each an attempted improvement over the previous.
The first design, known as the
1793 "Chain" Cent, features a low-relief head of Liberty with fine,
flowing locks of hair. The reverse shows a chain of fifteen links,
connected in a never-ending loop. Initial reaction to the coins was
quite negative: Liberty appeared to be in a fright and the chain was seen by
many as representing bondage and slavery as opposed to strength and union.
As a result, Liberty's hair was
strengthened and the chain was replaced with a wreath. Known as the 1793
"Wreath" Cent, this design fared little better than its predecessor
and was soon replaced.
The "Liberty Cap"
design turned out to be a little more enduring. Minted from 1794 to
1796, this design type is full of interesting varieties, many of them
rare. In 1795, the weight of the Large Cent was reduced and the edge
lettering was replaced with a plain edge. Some of the 1797 Large Cents
have a curious "Gripped Edge."
In 1796, the "Draped
Bust" design appeared. This type was minted until 1807. Rare
dates in this type include the elusive 1799 and the popular 1804.
The "Classic Head"
Large Cent ran from 1808 to 1814. Although none of the dates are rare,
they are hard to find in nice condition.
The "Matron Head"
design appeared in 1816 and lasted until 1839. Scarce dates include 1821
and 1823. Known as "Middle Dates", this series contains many
interesting varieties that are of great interest to a large number of
collectors. Certain rare varieties can be worth hundreds or thousands of
The final design type is the
"Braided Hair" type of 1840 to 1857. The last year is both
scarce as a date and popular as the last year of the denomination.
In 1857, the Large Cent was
replaced by the new Small Cent, a much more manageable (but less impressive)
To learn more about U.S. Large Cents, we recommend the following
books (click on any title to purchase the book):
"Penny Whimsy" by Dr. William H. Sheldon
Breen's Encyclopedia of United States Cents 1793-1814" by Walter
Breen and Mark Borckardt
States Large Cents, Volumes I & II" by William C. Noyes
States Copper Cents 1816-1857" by Howard R. Newcomb
Cent Book 1816-1839" by John D. Wright
"Attribution Guide For United States Large Cents 1840-1857", 2nd
edition by J.R. Grellman and Jules Reiver