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1803 Draped Bust United States Large Cent

By Edited Jun 10, 2014 3 0

1803 United States Large Cent Obverse

The 1803 Draped Bust United States Large Cent is a coin that can raise an eyebrow whenever an example appears within the collecting world. The many different die varieties immediately require closer examination to determine if the coin is worth thirty dollars, or thirty thousand.

3,131,691 cents where struck in the year 1803 by the United States mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All were minted for general circulation.

All, however, where not created equal. Dies for these coins were all hand made by craftsman with primitive hand tools by today's standards. Each die had a different lifespan. When a die cracked slightly, it would remain in use until quality control pulled the die. Some made it much father then they should have and some noticeable die breaks occurred on struck examples that still exist and are well documented today.

This article will not go into die breaks within this date. It will show the different combinations of large and small dates, as well as large and small fractions. This is the question that most who come across this coin will ask. The value greatly depends on these factors.

Dies would break at different intervals and some obverse dies would outlast their counterpart reverses. When the die change was made only the broken half of the set would be changed. This created several combinations that struck coins for different lengths of time.

One very rare example of the 1803 United States Large Cent is the famous large date small fraction variety that presently will bring up wards of 10,000 dollars for a g-4 coin. This would be a low grade coin considering the scale runs from one to 70.

The following text and images, will show the different combinations starting with the rarest of them all:

Rare 1803 Large Cent, Large Date, Sm Fraction

This is the queen of the 1803's. If you have this coin then I suggest you immediately have it authenticated by PCGS or NGC, the two most reliable grading companies.


Making sure it's real is the first step. These companies will not only authenticate the coin, they will assign it a grade and encapsulate the example in a special airtight collectors holder.

Cost for this service is about 25 to 50 dollars depending on the level of service you choose. Membership at either companies website will get you a few free submissions.

Looking at the inset photographs, the differences between the small date and large date are apparent. Once this has been determined, fraction size is the next consideration.





We're looking for the large date on the obverse of the coin and the small fraction on the reverse. This is the cream of the crop in 1803 large cents. Collectors search far and wide for any example of this variety. Adding one to any collection will increase the value of the set immensely.

Fraction Comparison 1803 Large Cent

The next variety involves the reverse of the coin. The numerals in the fraction were inadvertently cut as 000 and then re cut 100 over the first impression.

This resulted in a minimal number of coins being struck with this error reverse die. They carry a very nice premium as well as being very popular with a whole new collector base that specializes in error coins.

The photo below shows the re-cut die struck variety; this is another coin that should be authenticated for peace of mind. counterfeits do exist and usually will be in high grades.

1803 100 Over 000 Fraction Error

Encapsulating the coin, also helps to assure no damage will occur, that will significantly reduce its value. Again the grading services will do this, as part of their service.

1803 Large Cent, Small Date, Large Fraction
The next variety of 1803 United States large cents is the large date large fraction combination.

Usually this is a common coin, but it is still a rarity in high grades and is often used for type sets. It's easily obtained on eBay or other on line auction sites as well as any local coin store.

One more combination gives us the small date small fraction marriage.

1803 Large Cent Small Date, Sm Fraction
Also a common coin in low grades but slightly harder to find then the large date.

Any 1803 large cent in VF 30 or better is an expensive coin but low grades are attainable to the average collector even though prices are rising rapidly.

This fact along with the shrinking number of new examples showing up in the collecting world both add to the fact that these coins are a great investment opportunity to the savvy investor.

The prices for all grades are rising and so is their rarity, so now may be the last chance to get on the boat so to speak. 1803 Draped Bust United States large cents are a great place to put your money, if you're looking for uncommon cents.



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