Learn About Liberty Cap Large Cents 1793–1796
After two mediocre attempts at creating a copper coinage for America, the United States Mint finally got it right in the eyes of the public. This was the third major design change within the same year on the one-cent coin. There is some major disagreement and controversy as to who was the responsible party who actually designed the coin.
Some records name Robert Scot, the Chief Engraver of the Mint; while other records claim that Joseph Wright, who was to be named the Chief Engraver, designed and engraved the dies for the Liberty Cap Cent. Wright was George Washington’s choice to be Chief Engraver. However, we do know for a fact that Wright died in 1793 in Philadelphia from the Yellow Fever epidemic that was sweeping our then-Capitol. Other numismatic historians believe that Henry Voigt, whose first two attempts at a copper coinage were wildly unsuccessful was actually the designer, but given the style of the Liberty Cap Cent, it seems unlikely.
We do, however, know that Wright did engrave the coin before his death. And it is very likely that several designers made attempts at refining the style of the coin, as we have numerous changes to the dies resulting in different varieties of this coin.
The style of the coin is more sophisticated than in previous attempts. Miss Liberty faces right, a Phrygian cap, or slave cap, is on a pole behind her head. The Phrygian cap is one originated in Greek times. Newly freed slaves would wear one as a symbol of their freedom, but allegorically it represented Freedom of Thought. Above her head is the word “LIBERTY” and below is the date “1793.” This cap on a pole also symbolized the French Revolution and Thomas Jefferson was a strong proponent of French citizens overthrowing their monarchy just as we had done.
The reverse has a laurel wreath surrounding the denomination “ONE CENT” at the center of the coin. The Wreath is much thinner and more realistic looking than the Wreath Variety that followed the Chain Cents. Above the wreath and surmounting it are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and at the very bottom of the wreath is the numerical expression of the value “1/100.”
The edge is lettered with “ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR.” The planchets that were used for striking the later issues (1795 on) were thinner than the earlier issues due to the rolling mills that were used to make the planchets and that made the edge lettering impossible so it stopped with the 1795 issue.
This design was successful with the public as it was first minted in 1793 but it continued through 1797 when it was replaced in 1798 by the Draped Bust type.
After the 1793 issue had been released to the public, the striking of large cents resumed in January of 1794 using dies engraved by Scot, They used the same head of Miss Liberty as designed by Wright for the 1793 coins. These were the rare “Head of 1793” coins which are a rare variety of Liberty Cap cents.
Scot engraved his style of Miss Liberty for the cents bearing the 1794 date but with numerous minor changes to both sides.
There were a total of four different Liberty Cap cent varieties for 1793. In 1794 there were 56 varieties in addition to several that are so rare they are considered “Non-Collectible.” There were 8 varieties of the 1795-dated coins. Coins of May to June 1796 were struck from dies once again cut by Scot.
There are over one hundred and twenty different varieties of Liberty Cap Cents as the coin dies used to produce these coins were continually modified. The shape and style of Miss Liberty’s head as well as the numerals in the date were continually refined.
The United States Large Cents attracted an incredible and large audience of devoted collectors due to the works of Dr. William Sheldon, who devised a scale for grading and thereby valuing Large Cent coins. His work, “Penny Whimsy” is still the most important work on the subject today and his “Sheldon Numbers” are still used to identify the varieties. In fact, Dr. Sheldon’s grading scale has now been applied to the grading of all US and World coins.
|Date||Type||Mintage||Fine Value||Unc Value|
|1794||Liberty Cap – Head of 1793||918,521||$6,000||$35,000|
|1794||Liberty Cap – Starred Reverse||Included||$50,000||$500,000|
|1795||Liberty Cap – Lettered Edge||37,000||$1,250||$8,000|
|1795||Liberty Cap – Plain Edge||501,500||$1,000||$7,0000|
|1795||Liberty Cap – Reeded Edge||9||$1,000,000||Unknown|
|1795||Liberty Cap – Jefferson Head – Plain Edge||Unknown||$60,000||$300,000|
|1795||Liberty Cap – Jefferson Head – Lettered Edge||3||$100,000||Unknown|
Expand your collection today and find a 1796 Liberty Cap Large Cent AU-55 PCGS CAC (S-81, Rev of ’95).