Written by: Eric Niedzielski
History and Designs
In 1816, designer Robert Scot designed a large cent for the U.S. Mint. The coin was comprised of 100 percent copper and had a plain edge. The coin weighed 10.89 grams with a diameter of 28 to 29 millimeters. That's almost as big as a half dollar at 30.6 millimeters and almost as heavy as one at 11.34 grams! The obverse of the coin had a portrait of Lady Liberty and on the reverse of the coin was a wreath with the inscription "One Cent" in the center.
This coin was called the Matron Head. This design lasted from 1816 to 1835. Later in 1835, Christian Gobrecht modified the Matron Head. The design was called the Young Head design and it lasted to 1839. Then, yet again, the design was changed in 1839 to the Braided Hair design and lasted to 1857 when large cents weren't being produced anymore and small cents were starting to be produced. I recently acquired this type of design from the Early American Copper Coin Project.
Rare Dates and Errors
There aren't many rare dates in this series, but the 1823 is by far the rarest and has the Matron Head design with an unknown mintage. Another rarer date is the 1821 cent with a mintage of 389,000. All the other dates are more readily available with the exception of the large cent of 1857 with a mintage of 333,546.
The first variety of the series is the 1817 13-star and the 1817 15- star design. Next is the 1819 9 over 8 and the 1819 large and small date. Continuing on from there is the 1820 20 over 19 and the 1820 large and small dates. In 1823, there was an 1823 3 over 2 variety, an 1824 4 over 2 and in 1826 a 6 over 5. In 1828, there was a large narrow date and a small wide date. From 1829 through 1832, there was a large letter and small letter variety. Those are most of the "Matron Head" varieties.
Now some of the Braided Hair varieties are the 1842 large date and small date, the 1844 44 over 81, which happens when the date in struck upside down and then corrected to make it look normal. Other varieties include the 1847 7 over "small 7" and the 1851 51 over 81. The last variety of this design was in 1857 and was the 1857 large and small date varieties.
In conclusion, the Liberty Head large cent was minted from 1816 through 1857 and had three main designs: the Matron Head, the Young Head and the Braided Hair design. There aren't many rare dates, but many varieties.
Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions