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United States Large Cents

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1837 Large Cent
1837 Large Cent

Large cents have earned a spot in history as the first coins ever minted by the United States government on its own equipment and premises.

They were minted from 1793 to 1857 at the mint in Philadelphia, the only U.S. Mint at the time.

In 1815, however, a fire at the mint prevented the coin from being produced that year.

People of that time period didn't like to carry the coins because they were so large and cumbersome.

And they were also fairly heavy. The weight of a dollar's worth of these coins is about three pounds.

These large coins have become an interesting part of history however, because they show us the value of money during this era.

At the time they were in circulation, the coin was not called the "Large Cent". It was just the one cent coin of the day.

Today it is called a large cent by coin collectors because compared to our modern day "penny", it is huge. This coin is larger that the modern quarter (about 27mm).

All Large Cents were minted at the Philadelphia Mint and have no mint mark.

These Large Coins, Made of Nearly Pure Copper,
Were Produced in Several Varieties.

Flowing Hair, Chain Reverse 1793

Henry Voight was the designer of this coin. He intended for the chain on the back to represent strength, but people didn't like the design at all. They viewed the chain as a symbol of slavery. However, since only 36,103 were minted and many of these have not survived the years, it has become a real prize to the few collectors lucky enough to have one.

If you also consider that it was the first regular federally issued coin with a design and type that was only made for one year, you can see why it is highly prized by collectors. All surviving specimens bring high prices.

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1793 Large Cent
Flowing Hair
Chain Reverse
1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent - Chain Reverse
Type Flowing Hair - Chain Reverse
Designer Henry Voigt
Years Minted 1793 only
Weight 13.48 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 26-27 mm
Edge bars and slender vine with leaves
Mintage 36,103

Flowing Hair, Wreath Reverse 1793

Because of the strong reaction to the chain on the coin, it was removed later in 1793 and replaced with a wreath. The bust of Liberty was also redesigned with longer and wilder hair. There were about 63,000 coins made with the wreath on the reverse.

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1793 Large Cent
Flowing Hair
Wreath Reverse
1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent - Wreath Reverse
Type Flowing Hair - Wreath Reverse
Designer Henry Voigt
Years Minted 1793 only
Weight 13.48 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 26-28 mm
Edge vine and bars or lettered ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR followed by either a single or double leaf
Mintage 63,353

Liberty Cap 1793–1796

This design "tamed" the wild hair of Liberty and faced her to the right. A cap, an ancient symbol of freedom, was added and the wreath on the reverse was revised to a laurel wreath.

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1793-1796 Large Cent
Liberty Cap
1794 Liberty Cap Large Cent
Type Liberty Cap
Designer 1793-1795 - thick planchet - Joseph Wright
1795-1796 - thin planchet - John Smith Gardner
Years Minted 1793-1796
Weight 1793-1795 13.48 grams
1795-1796 10.89 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 29 mm
Edge 1793-1795 ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR followed by a single leaf
1795-1796 plain
Mintage 1793 - 11,056
1794 - 918,521
1795 - 37,000 lettered edge
1795 - 501,500 plain edge
1796 - 109,825

Draped Bust 1796–1807

On this design, Liberty is wearing flowing hair tied with a ribbon and has a drapery at the neckline. The reverse design features an olive wreath.

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1796-1807 Draped Bust Large Cent
1805 Draped Bust Large Cent
Type Draped Bust
Designer Robert Scot
Years Minted 1796-1807
Weight 10.89 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 29 mm
Edge plain
Mintage 1796 - 363,375
1797 - 897,510
1798-99 - 1,841,745
1800 - 2,822,175
1801 - 1,362,837
1802 - 3,435,100
1803 - 3,131,691
1804 - 96,500
1805 - 941,116
1806 - 348,000
1807 - 829,221

Classic Head 1808–1814

This design of the coin gets its name from the fillet (narrow headband) Liberty is wearing. It seems odd that this particular headgear was chosen for Liberty as it is a type of headgear only worn by male athletes in ancient Greece, given to them as prizes for winning local sporting events.

The copper used in the Classic Head cents contained less metallic impurity than previous copper used and as a result the coins were softer. This allowed them wear and corrode more easily than other issues so it is really difficult to find these coins in good condition.

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1808-1814 Classic Head Large Cent
1810 Classic Head Large Cent
Type Classic Head
Designer John Reich
Years Minted 1808-1814
Weight 10.89 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 29 mm
Edge plain
Mintage 1808 - 1,007,000
1809 - 222,867
1810 - 1,458,500
1811 - 218,025
1812 - 1,075,500
1813 - 418,000
1814 - 257,830

Liberty Head or Coronet cents 1816–1857

Matron Head (1816–1839)- Due to much criticism of the Classic Head from the public, the coin was redesigned in 1816. The portrait was enlarged and Liberty was given a much more mature look. This led to it being referred to as the Matron Head. Liberty was also surrounded with stars along the outer edge of the coin.

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1816-1839 Liberty Head Large Cent -
Matron Head
1820 Matron Head Large Cent
Type Liberty Head - Matron Head
Designer 1816-1836 Robert Scot
1837-1839 Christian Gobrecht
Years Minted 1816-1839
Weight 10.89 grams
Composition copper
Diameter 1816-1836 approx. 28-29 mm
1837-1839 approx. 27.5 mm
Edge plain
Mintage 1816 - 2,820,982
1817 - 3,948,400
1818 - 3,167,000
1819 - 2,671,000
1820 - 4,407,550
1821 - 389,000
1822 - 2,072,339
1823-24 - 1,262,000
1825 - 1,461,100
1826 - 1,517,425
1827 - 2,357,732
1828 - 2,260,624
1829 - 1,414,500
1830 - 1,711,500
1831 - 3,359,260
1832 - 2,362,000
1833 - 2,739,000
1834 - 1,855,100
1835 - 3,878,400
1836 - 2,111,000
1837 - 5,558,300
1838 - 6,370,200
1839 - 3,128,661

Braided Hair or Petite Head (1839–1857)- Once again, public critisism prompted one last major change to the coin. It was updated by giving Liberty a slimmer, more youthful appearance.

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1839-1857 Liberty Head Large Cent -
Braided Hair
1853 Coronet Head Braided Large Cent
Type Liberty Head Large Cent - Braided Hair
Designer Christain Gobrecht
Years Minted 1839-1857
Weight 10.89 grams
Composition copper
Diameter approx. 27.5 mm
Edge plain
Mintage 1839 - included in mintage numbers above for 1839
1840 - 2,462,700
1841 - 1,5973670
1842 - 2,383,390
1843 - 2,425,342
1844 - 2,398,752
1845 - 3,894,804
1846 - 4,120,800
1847 - 6,183,669
1848 - 6,415,799
1849 - 4,178,500
1850 - 4,426,844
1851 - 9,889,707
1852 - 5,063,094
1853 - 6,641,131
1854 - 4,236,156
1855 - 1,574,829
1856 - 2,690,463
1857 - 333,546

A mint employee coined several large cents dated 1868 about 11 years after the large cent was discontinued. I am sure he knew they would be instant rarities to collectors. And I suppose he was right as less than a dozen of these unofficial issues are known to survive.

Price Guides

PCGS Price Guide.

Numismedia Fair Market Value Price guide.

Also see Coin Values Discovery for grading images and value charts for your large cent.

These coins were struck in both bronze and copper-nickel.

In 1857 the Large Cent was officially replaced by the modern-size one-cent coin we know today as the "penny". One reason, other than the bulk and heaviness of the coin, is that the copper content became more valuable than the coin's face value.

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