Coinage Per Decade: Large Cents
The US Mint is constantly minting new coinage. They also mint new designs quite often, as well. This post discusses new designs every decade starting in 1792, when the US Mint was founded, and going all the way to present day, if applicable in the style.
1790s: Flowing Hair and Liberty Cap Large Cents
The Flowing Hair Large Cent with a chain revserse was the first one cent coin minted by the US Mint. The Mint had laws stating that the large cent should weigh exactly double what the half cents weighed. All the large cents were struck at the Philadelphia Mint until their discontinuation in 1857. The Flowing Hair Large Cent was minted for only one year. The chain resverse consists of a drawing of a woman with lots of hair on the obverse, with "LIBERTY" above and the year, in this case, only "1793", below. The revserse contains the words "ONE CENT" in the middle, with "1/100" directly below it. A chain circles all the way around. Near the rim, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" is struck in a circular fashion all the way around, similar to the chain. The coin was made of entirely copper and weighs 13.48 grams. It has a diameter of between 26-27mm. The wreath reverse, also minted in 1793, consists of a woman with flowing hair, LIBERTY above and 1793 below. This one also has a leaf just above the date, but below the woman. There are 4 known "strawberry leaf varieties" with a different leaf. The revser is similar to the chain reverse, however, wheat is going around the "ONE CENT" instead of a chain. Also, the "1/100" is at the bottom of the coin outside the wreath. "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" still circles around the wreath. People disliked the obverse portrait, so the mint created yet another large cent in 1793. This one, however, went all the way to 1796, instead of just in 1793. It is slightly larger, at 29mm, than the flowing hair examples. The obverse consists of an improved woman, holding some sort of strange bag above her head to the left of the coin. "LIBERTY" is above and the year is below. The reverse is almost exactly the same as the flowing hair wheat reverse.
1800s: Draped Bust Large Cents
Minted from 1796 to 1807, this coin was far more minted, being the first large cent to go over one million minted in a single year, in 1798, again in 1800, 1801, 1802, and 1803. Weighing in at 10.87 grams, this coin weighed more than the previous large cents, with a diameter of 29mm. The coin looks very similar to the previous coinage on the revsere, with almost no changes. However, the woman on the obverse was much imporved, with more realistic hair that is actually styled, as well as no intersting bag, as with the Liberty Cap variant. There is also no leaf on the obverse of this coin.
1810s: Classic Head Large Cent
These coins contained a softer copper, making it seem more metallic. Also, these coins wore very quickly, making it really difficult to find these coins in good grades. This has the same weight, diameter, etc. as the draped bust large cents. This coin contains a woman facing towards the left, instead of the right, as in the previous versions. Stars are around the coin to the left and right with the date on the bottom. The back, again, looks almost identical as the previous wheat reverses, but without the "1/100" fraction. The coins were minted from 1808 to 1814.
1820s: Liberty Head Large Cent - Matron Head
This coin, similar to the classic head large cent, is almost identical, but is improved with a better strike and better design. Minted from 1816 to 1836, the reverse is, again, almost identical to previous coins. Some were struck with 15 stars around the head, instead of 13. The weight is also 10.87 grams and has a diameter of between 28 and 29mm. In my opinion, it looks like the Matron Head is really sad and is about to cry.
1830s: Liberty Head Large Cent - Improved Matron Head
This coin, minted from 1837 to 1839, is almost identical to the previous variant, just improved. This coin is also know as "The Young Head." This coin, as well as the last, fall into a single type, Liberty Head Large Cent, meaning there are few differences.
1840s: Liberty Head Large Cent - Braided Hair
This coin is the last large cent to be released by the US Mint. After this, they switched to the small cents, which comes to my absolute favorite coin, the Flying Eagle Small Cent. This coin is, in my opinion, the nicest large cent ever minted. They continually improved the coins, so this is the one with the best strike. Again, very similar to the lasts ones, but with a slightly different head and one that is slightly crooked downwards to the left. The rest of the obverse and reverse are simply improvements in design and strike from the previous design.
Large cents are some amazing coins. They are especially exciting in my opinion, due to such a size difference. They are not the same size as any cent you would ever find in circulation today.
Yeoman, R S. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2018 Essential Edition: The Official Red Book. Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2017.
CoinHELP! How To Grade Flowing Hair Large Cents US Coin Photo Grade, coinauctionshelp.com/flowing_hair_large_cent_grades.html.
“PCGS Photograde Online - Estimating Coin Grades Has Never Been Easier.” PCGS, www.pcgs.com/photograde/.
Guth, Ron. “CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins.” CoinFacts.com - The Internet Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins, Collectors Universe Inc., coinfacts.com/.
“NGC Coin Explorer.” Online Coin Catalog Search Page - Coin Explorer | NGC, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/.
Large cents are great conversational pieces.
They sure are! I have one with a hole in it...
Large cents are a favorite of mine. Really great blog! Thanks!
Thanks for reading! I enjoy them as well :)
Large Cents are a favorite of mine. Thanks for the blog..
Mine too :) Glad you enjoyed!
there were lots of different varieties regarding the large cent sand the early american coinage. thanks for sharing
There were a lot :) I would be excited just to see which variety I would get each time I got a penny :) Now, I just look to see if it's a shield or a memorial. One time, though, I got a lucky wheat at Hobby Lobby :)
As coin making technology improved, so did the quality of the coins struck. For instance, in 1792 coins were screw pressed, by the late 1830's steam presses were used to strike coins. Also of significance, the end of the large cent and the beginning of the small cent is said to have started coin collecting as a hobby in this country with collectors pulling large cents from circulation for their collections.
Really? I was unaware of that! Great information. I'm young, so I have no idea when it started. I know when I was around 7, my dad and I each had a state quarter set we would try to fill :)
Always liked them. Can't always buy them. There very important to th hobby. Everyone should realize that. Thanks Mike.
Yep. They are :) Thanks for reading!
Large cents are what numismatics is all about. The dedicated collector appreciates these coins. They will always be a favorite.
They are amazing! I always find it amazing how far the mint has come since their first coins.