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US Large Cents – Key Dates and Varieties

United States Large Cents are extremely popular to collect. They have been popular to collect since the 1850s, when, coincidentally, that series was coming to completion. The coins were popular to collect as they were reasonably priced as they were copper and a low denomination.  

They were also made popular by numerous early books on the subject: 

  • “Penny Whimsey,” by Dr. William Sheldon, which covers Large Cents from 1793 to 1814;
  • “United States Large Cents,” by Warren Lapp and Herbert Silberman, Cents from 1793 to 1857;
  • “United States Large Cents 1816-1839” by William C. Noyes
  • “Die Varieties of the 1794 Large Cent,” by George Ewing.

That list is by no means complete. Also adding to the collecting fervor is the “Early American Coppers Club” AKA “EAC” which inspires collectors to enjoy collecting Large Cents, Half Cents and early copper colonial coins.

The die varieties are so numerous that it is beyond the scope of this article to include a majority of them. However, this article will define and explain the major varieties and all of the rare dates. There are no mintmarked Large Cents as all of them were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. 

To learn more about the backstory behind these coins, check out our article on the history of Large Cents.

Flowing Hair Type

There are two distinct types of Flowing Hair large cents – the Chain Reverse and the Wreath Reverse. Both types are scarce, and all varieties are scarce and desirable. These designs were engraved by Hennry Voight, a US Mint Engraver. There was opposition to the Chain reverse, as it was associated with slavery rather than unity. 

1793 Chain Cent, AMERI in Legend

There are 3 varieties of 1793 Large Cent with the Linked Chair reverse. Only 36,103 Chain Cents were struck. All are scarce and desirable. 

The first variety has the word “AMERICA” abbreviated as “AMERI”

1793 Chain Cent, AMERICA, with Periods

This version has the complete word “AMERICA” displayed and it also has periods visible on the obverse after the word “LIBERTY” and the date “1793.”

1793 Chain Cent, AMERICA, no Periods

This version is similar to the above, except that the periods are both missing.

1793 Chain Cent, AMERICA

1793 Wreath Cent, Vine and Bars on the Edge:

The major design change was the Chain was eliminated and was replaced by a wreath. A total of 63,353 Wreath Cents were struck and, again, there were three varieties struck. This variety displays Vines & Bars on the edge.

1793 Wreath Cent, Lettered Edge

The lettered edge replaced the Vines and Bars with “ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR.” It is slightly rarer than the Vines and Bars variety. 

1793 Wreath Cent, Strawberry Leaf Variety

This is an extremely rare variety with only 4 known examples in existence. The last one at public auction brought nearly $900,000 back in 2009 for a Fine example. 

1793 Wreath Cent

Liberty Cap Type

The Liberty Cap Type Large Cents were struck between 1793 through 1796. There were numerous varieties during this period but we will focus on the major and key varieties. Voight again probably designed this as objections were also made to Miss Liberty’s portrait. 

1793 Liberty Cap

There were a mere 11,056 Liberty Cap coins struck in 1793. It is rare in all grades. 

1793 Liberty Cap Large Cent

1794 Liberty Cap, Head of 1793

The 1794 Large has numerous varieties. The “Head of 1793” variety displays higher and much more rounded relief. The “Head of 1794” is flatter and not as rounded. 

1794 Large Cent, Starred Reverse

This is a very RARE variety that displays small five-pointed stars between the denticles on the reverse.

1795 Liberty Cap, Reeded Edge

With only 9 coins known to exist, this extreme rarity is incredibly valuable. Watch for doctored “reeded edges.” Certification is highly recommended.

1795 Liberty Cap, Jefferson Head

This is claimed not to be a regular US Mint issue, but no one is quite certain of its provenance. Miss Liberty has bold cheeks and a plain edge. 

Draped Bust Type

Designed by Robert Scot, Miss Liberty no longer has a Pole and Cap behind her. She now sports long, curly hair, tied with a bow in the back. These coins were struck between 1796 and 1807. There were a handful of scarcer varieties during this series. 

1796 Draped Bust, Stemless Reverse

With only 3 coins known, the 1796 Draped Bust Large Cent, with a STEMLESS REVERSE is extremely rare.

1796 Draped Bust, LIHERTY Error

This error was made because the letter “B” was originally placed upside down and then corrected. The “B” resembles an “H.” 

1799 9 Over 8

Although the Redbook lists the mintage of 1799 Large Cents totaling 904,565, it is believed that only 42,540 coins were actually dated 1799. It is believed that the remaining coins were all dated 1798. Of those dated 1799, there were two varieties: those with the last “9” over “8” in the date and the other is a simply normal date. Due to the actual mintage of only 42,540, both varieties are SCARCE.  

1799 Normal Date

Both this variety and the overdate (above) are very scarce coins and they have been highly desirable since the mid-1800s. 

1803 Draped Bust, Large Date, Small Fraction

There are six different varieties of 1803 Draped Bust, Large Cent, but only the Large Date with a Small Fraction is recognized as very scarce. 

1804 Official Date

Only 96,500 official coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. All genuine examples of this date have a ‘crosslet 4’ in the date and a large fraction 1/100 on the reverse. 

1804 Unofficial Restrike of 1860

Due to the rarity of this date, in about 1860 an unofficial restrike from two different dies was struck to satisfy the demand for this rare date. The obverse was an altered 1803 Large Cent and the reverse from an 1820 Large Cent was used.  The quantity is unknown.   

1804 Unofficial Restrike

1807 Draped Bust, Small Date, 7 Over 6, Blunt 1

While there are 5 different varieties of 1807 Draped Bust Large Cent. This rare variety displays a Small Date, the 7 over 6 overdate and a Blunt 1. 

Classic Head Type

Designed by John Reich, Chief Engraver of the US Mint, they were struck between 1808 to 1814. There are no major varieties or rarities in this series, but NO Large Cents were struck in 1815 at all. 

1823 Matron Head, Large Cent, Normal Date

Liberty Head Type

The Matron Head type of the Liberty Head series was struck between 1816 and 1835. There are only two dates of significance of this Matron Head Type. Chief Engraver Christian Gobrecht created this design. He slightly modified it in 1835 through 1839. 

1823 Matron Head Large Cent – 3 Varieties

The 1823 date has 2 varieties from the US Mint and 1 from unofficial sources. All are scarce, There is an overdate of 1823 over 2, a Normal Date and an Unofficial Restrike. 

1823 Matron Head, 1823 Over 2

The 1823 overdate of 2 Over 3 is visible to the naked eye. No mintage numbers are available. 

1823 Matron Head, Normal Date

There are no mintage numbers for the 1823 Matron Cent with the Normal Date.

1823 Matron Head, Large Cent, Normal Date

1823 Matron Head Cent, Unofficial Restrike

The unofficial restrike was struck from broken dies with large die cracks plainly visible. It is believed that the parties that created the 1804 Unofficial Restrike, also created this Unofficial Restrike. Used were an 1823 Obverse die and an 1813 Reverse die. The dies were cracked and rusted, and examples display die cracks and rust lumps on these restrikes.

1834 Matron Head Cent, Large 8, Large Stars, and Medium Letters

There are multiple varieties of the 1834 Matron Cent – Large 8, Stars and reverse Letters. There was a Large 8, Small Stars and Medium Letters. There is a Small 8, with Large Stars and Medium Letters.

This scarce Matron Head Large Cent variety has a Large 8, Large Stars along Medium Letters in the words on the reverse. These varieties are best identified by comparing one variety versus all of the others.

1839 over 1836, Plain Cords

For all 4 varieties of 1839-dated coins, this version is the only scarce one. The ‘9’ in the date was struck over an underlying ‘6’ and the cords in Miss Liberty’s hair are plain and not beaded.

Braided Hair Type

Christian Gobrecht further modified the Braided hair design which was struck from 1839 through the end of the series in 1857. Miss Liberty had a younger, more youthful face and her hair was pulled back and braided into a bun. It is the most common and most plentiful of all of the types in the Large Cent series.  

While there are no truly rare varieties or expensive key dates, there are a couple of noteworthy varieties.

1840 Braided Hair, Small Date over Large 18

This large cent displays a small date over an underlying larger date, with the ‘18’ larger than the ‘40’. 

1844 Braided, 44 Over 81

This Braided Large Cent displays the 1844 date over an upside down 81. 

1847 Braided, 7 Over Small 7

This date inadvertently originally used a small’7’ placed higher than the date. It is seen above the displayed ‘7’ in the date.

1851 Braided, 51 Over 81

This coin has a date with the last two digits ‘51’ struck over and upside down 81.

1855 Braided, Slanting 5’s, Knob on Ear

This variety is unusual in that there is a small extra piece of copper, that is placed above Miss Liberty’s ear.

1857 Braided, Large Date

The 1857, the last date in this series, saw 333.546 coins struck of this date. They seem to be evenly mixed between the Large Date, which displays close to the truncation of the neck and is close to the denticles.

1857 Braided, Small Date

This version of the 1857-dated Braided Hair Large Cent, displays a smaller date than the above coin. There is minimally more room between the top of the numerals in the date and the truncation of the neck. There is also more space between the bottoms of the numerals and the denticles encircling the periphery of the coin. A side-by-side comparison is the surest way to tell the difference between these two varieties of this date.  

1857 Braided Hair Large Cent, Small Date

By 1857, the price of copper had risen and with commercial prices rising, both the Half Cent and the Large Cent were no longer popular. Also leading to their demise was a much smaller, lighter, and more desirable three cent silver coin that was welcome in commerce and because of its silver value was gaining in popularity.

The legislation that ended the Half Cent and reduced the size of the One Cent coin also stopped the circulation of silver and gold foreign coins in the country. It was sixty-four years after the striking of the first US coins – coincidentally Half Cents and Large Cents – that eliminated both from current minting.  

Collecting US Large Cents has been very popular for more than one hundred and fifty years and continues to grow as information on the series is available online and everywhere.

Large Cent Values

Date Variety Mintage Fine Ext. Fine 
1793 Chain Ameri 36,103 Total $32,000 $115,000 
1793 Chain AMERICA… Included $22,000 $65,000 
1793 Chain AMERICA Included $23,000 $70,000 
1793 Wreath Vine & Bars 63,353 Total $9,000 $30,000 
1793 Wreath Lettered Included $10,000 $35,000 
1793 Wreath Strawberry 4 Known $900,000 —- 
1793 Liberty Liberty Cap 11,056 $25,000 $100,000 
1794 Liberty Head of 1793 Included $7,000 $25,000 
1794 Liberty Starred Rev. Included $75,000 $300,000 
1795 Liberty Reeded Edge 9 Known $800,000 —- 
1795 Liberty Jefferson Hd Unknown $60,000 $150,000 
1796 Draped Stemless Rv 3 Known $50,000 —- 
1796 Draped LIHERTY Unknown $4,000 $15,000 
1799 Draped 9 Over 8 Included $15,000 $225,000 
1799 Draped  Normal Dt 42,540 $20,000 $200,000 
1803 Draped  Lg Dt/Sm Fr Included $25,000 $70,000 
1804 Draped Crosslet 4 96,500 $7,500 $20,000 
1804 Draped Restrike Unknown $750 $1,500 
1807 Draped Sm Dt, 7/6 Included $12,000 $65,000 
1823 Matron 3 Over 2 Unknown $900 $3,500 
1823 Matron Normal Date Unknown $1,000 $5,000 
1823 Matron  Restrike Unknown $500 $700 
1834 Matron Lg 8,Stars,Med Ltrs Unknown $1,250 $4,000 
1839 Matron 9 /6, Plain Cords Unknown $3,000 $10,000 
1840 Braided Sm Date / Lg 18 Unknown $200 $650 
  1844 Braided 44 Over 81 Unknown $200 $600 
1847 Braided  7 Over Sm 7 Unknown $250 $650 
1851 Braided 51 Over 81 Unknown $150 $400 
1855 Braided Knob on Ear Unknown $100 $225 
1857 Braided Large Date 333,546 $300 $500 
1857 Braided Small Date Included $300 $500 

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