Many people may not know that for over half a century, the United States had what is known as the large cent running in circulation. The large cent saw many different changes while it was minted but it is still remembered fondly by numismatists to this day.
Between 1793 and 1857, the large cent served as the equivalent of the modern day penny with a face value of 1/100 of a U.S. Dollar. The coin is larger than the typical cent, hence the nickname of the large cent. In fact, these coins are bigger than the quarters used today. The large cent was made of nearly pure copper with no other metals being added.
All large cents were produced within the Philadelphia Mint. They had double the amount of copper as the half cent. The original large cent design that began circulating in 1793 has become known as Flowing Hair cents. A bust of Liberty is featured on one side with the reverse showing a ring of chains. This original design did not go over particularly well because many thought the chains were a reference to slavery. These initial Flowing Hair cents are actually noteworthy because they are the inaugural coins to be printed by the U.S. government on both its own property and equipment.
The short printing span led to only about 35,000 of these coins to be printed. This has made them scarce and a huge collectors item. The original large cents can go anywhere from $2,000 to as much as $50,000, depending on the coin’s condition.
Following the outcry about the chains, the Mint changed the design. The bust of Liberty was changed to allow for even longer hair, while the chains were switched out to include a wreath. Around 63,000 of these coins were printed.
The next design came quickly again and is known today as the Liberty Cap cents. These ran from 1793 to 1796 and featured Liberty facing to the right side with less wild hair and a cap added to symbolize freedom. The other side featured a laurel wreath.
The next design change came in 1796 and remained in effect for another 11 years until 1807 and is known as the Draped Bust design. It featured a bust of Liberty with a ribbon in her hair and outfitted in drapery. An olive wreath was featured on the other side.
Following the Draped Bust era, Classic Head cents were introduced in 1808 and feature Liberty with a fillet on her head. These coins were also made of higher quality copper and remained the standard design until 1814. The higher quality did lead to more corrosion of the coin and thus it is harder to find in mint condition.
The only time that the large cent was not in circulation between 1793 and 1857 was briefly during 1815. This was a result of the war against Great Britain in 1812. The mint halted production of the coin due to the wartime embargo. Once the war was completed, however, the U.S. Mint resumed production of the coin.
The large cent was again redesigned after the war with a larger portrait of a more mature Liberty. This design became known as the Coronet cent. The 1835 redesign reversed course to give Liberty a more youthful appearance.
The final design of the large cent is the Braided Hair design. These coins were printed from 1839 until 1857 and then briefly again in 1868. This design made Liberty more slim and stayed the design until the coin was no longer printed.
If you have old coins lying around, they could be worth more than you think. If you’re looking for a coin appraisal in Fort Washington, PA or the surrounding areas or if you’re looking to sell gold or silver in Glenside, visit Edelman’s Coins to get the strongest prices in the entire Greater Philadelphia area.