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Large Cents

Large Cents (1793-1857)

Large Cents are the same denomination as our contemporary pennies but when they were first introduced, this name was as foreign as the new coin itself. Among the first coins produced by the United States Mint, the Large Cent had a face value of 1/100th of a dollar, as specified by Congress. Unlike contemporary pennies, these large single-cent coins were almost the size of a modern half-dollar. Though these coins were introduced in 1793, production on these everyday coins continued through the mid-19th century! Every year from 1793 to 1857, with the exception of 1815, the U.S. Mint struck large quantities of Large Cent coins.

The lack of a Large Cent from 1815 is largely due to the War of 1812. A wartime embargo prevented blank copper planchets from being shipped to the United States. Though the mint had a good supply of planchets on-hand at the outset of war, they ran out completely by the time they needed to begin striking the 1815 edition. Fortunately, the war with Great Britain ended in 1816, allowing the mint to immediately obtain the copper blanks to create Large Cents. Another interesting detail about the Large Cent is they were produced only at the Philadelphia Mint facility.

Large Cent Design History

Insofar as coin art goes, the Large Cent always kept things simple. However, despite the simplicity favored for the design of this coin, the Large Cent changed many times throughout its considerable run in production. The initial designs found on Large Cents from 1793 were bold but extremely simple. The obverse of the coin depicted a right-facing Lady Liberty with her hair blown back as if by a strong wind. The coin’s reverse caused great controversy upon its release, as it depicted a ring of chains. Many believed that chain detail alluded to designer Henry Voigt’s support of slavery and did not want U.S. coinage to bear that image.

Though that initial design was not welcomed by most U.S. citizens, it is of particular importance to numismatists now. The Large Cent was the first coinage produced by the U.S. Mint using its own equipment and processes and just over 30,000 were minted. Even before the new 1794 edition was released, the U.S. Mint responded to public dissatisfaction and altered the design of both sides of the coin. The Large Cent’s new reverse depicted an ornate wreath, which met with much greater favor than the ring of chains. Though still rare, the Wreath reverse Large Cent had a mintage of more than 60,000.

 
Large Cents (1793-1857) obverse

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.

 

Value of the Large Cent

The Large Cent is arguably the most popular type of U.S. coin among collectors. These precious coins were among the first coins designated official coinage of the United States; each and every one is a piece of our nation’s history. To collectors, even Large Cents in Poor condition are a prize. Many of these coins are 200 years old, so pristine condition is not a reasonable expectation. Even a layperson can understand why collectors are willing to invest great resources in acquiring a Large Cent in above average condition.



DATE GOOD FINE EXTREMELY FINE UNCIRCULATED
1793 Liberty Cap $6,000 $17,500 $100,000 N/A
1794 Liberty Cap $370 $800 $4,000 N/A
1795 Liberty Cap $350 $1,000 $5,250 N/A
1796 Liberty Cap $400 $1,200 $5,500 N/A
1796 Draped Bust $250 $900 $6,250 N/A
1797 Draped Bust $140 $425 $3,500 N/A
1798 Draped Bust $135 $550 $7,500 N/A
1799 Draped Bust $4,000 $13,500 $100,000 N/A
1800 Draped Bust $75 $265 $3,850 N/A
1801 Draped Bust $85 $225 $1,250 N/A
1802 Draped Bust $65 $225 $1,400 N/A
1803 Draped Bust $65 $200 $1,000 N/A
1804 Draped Bust $1,200 $4,500 $20,000 N/A
1805 Draped Bust $75 $225 $1,200 N/A
1806 Draped Bust $70 $225 $2,000 N/A
1807 Draped Bust $75 $225 $1,250 N/A
1808 Classic $100 $375 $2,500 N/A
1809 Classic $120 $600 $4,000 N/A
1810 Classic $80 $325 $1,700 N/A
1811 Classic $100 $400 $2,200 N/A
1812 Classic $100 $375 $1,600 N/A
1813 Classic $80 $325 $1,750 N/A
1814 Classic $80 $325 $1,600 N/A
1816 Liberty Head $25 $50 $190 $300
1817 Liberty Head $30 $55 $150 $250
1818 Liberty Head $30 $45 $135 $225
1819 Liberty Head $30 $45 $150 $300
1820 Liberty Head $25 $45 $175 $250
1821 Liberty Head $45 $135 $1,300 $2,300
1822 Liberty Head $30 $45 $425 $700
1824 Liberty Head $85 $325 $2,200 $4,500
1825 Liberty Head $20 $40 $325 $650
1826 Liberty Head $25 $100 $975 $1,500
1827 Liberty Head $20 $40 $225 $425
1828 Liberty Head $20 $35 $210 $400
1829 Liberty Head $20 $35 $200 $385
1830 Liberty Head $20 $35 $190 $300
1831 Liberty Head $20 $30 $150 $250
1832 Liberty Head $20 $30 $150 $250
1833 Liberty Head $20 $30 $150 $250
1834 Liberty Head $20 $75 $550 $1,200
1835 Liberty Head $20 $35 $225 $400
1836 Liberty Head $20 $35 $125 $250
1837 Liberty Head $20 $35 $125 $250
1838 Liberty Head $20 $35 $120 $225
1839 Liberty Head $20 $30 $110 $265
1840 Liberty Head $20 $30 $85 $200
1841 Liberty Head $20 $35 $125 $250
1842 Liberty Head $20 $30 $90 $220
1843 Liberty Head $20 $30 $85 $160
1844 Liberty Head $20 $30 $85 $160
1845 Liberty Head $20 $30 $75 $135
1846 Liberty Head $20 $30 $75 $135
1847 Liberty Head $20 $30 $75 $135
1848 Liberty Head $20 $30 $75 $130
1849 Liberty Head $20 $30 $85 $150
1850 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1851 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1852 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1853 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1854 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1855 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $125
1856 Liberty Head $20 $30 $65 $130
1857 Liberty Head $60 $100 $200 $300

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