Importance of the Large Cent in History
Despite the redesign of the 1793 Large Cent, Mint Director David Rittenhouse hired Joseph Wright to completely overhaul the coin’s artwork for the 1794 release. Wright’s design also featured Lady Liberty on the obverse, but he tidied her hair somewhat and added a Phrygian cap, a historic symbol of freedom. The coin’s reverse maintained a wreath design, but the wreath on the 1794 edition is easily identifiable as a laurel wreath. Generally accepted by the public, the design unveiled in 1794 continued in production for three years before being replaced by the Draped Bust design. In 1796, Robert Scot completely redesigned United States coinage, including the Large Cent. The new obverse bore an image of a right-facing Lady Liberty, but she was finer looking, with a ribbon in her hair and a draped garment around her décolletage. Rather than the laurel wreath, the 1796 edition featured an olive wreath. This artwork gained even greater acceptance from the public and was maintained until 1808. At that time, Robert Scot’s assistant engraver John Reich was appointed to redesign Scot’s Draped Bust design. The new style of Large Cent has come to be known as the Classic Head design. It featured a left-facing Lady Liberty wearing ornate headgear reminiscent of a crown. This headgear, most properly called a fillet, is said to resemble the ornament given to top athletes in Ancient Greece. However, the copper used in the production of these coins was of a higher quality than any used before, resulting in coins that were softer and more vulnerable to the wear and tear of circulation.
In 1816, Chief Engraver Scot was forced to redesign the coin yet again. This time, the artwork depicted Lady Liberty as a more mature woman, which is why this design is colloquially called the Matron Head design. In some numismatic circles, this particular Large Cent design is known as a Coronet Cent. These coins were minted until 1839. In 1835, Christian Gobrecht was made the new chief engraver of the U.S. Mint and was tasked with redesigning the Large Cent for the last time. Gobrecht gave Lady Liberty a younger, more vital look and her hair was put into a stylish braid. This was the last design change to Large Cent went through, which continued through 1857. Obviously, there are many different possibilities when it comes to collecting the Large Cent. Because the coin was in production for nearly 100 years, one would think that many have survived to today, but that is unfortunately not so. These coins, especially the oldest of them, are difficult to find and rarely survive in pristine condition.