The US Mint began producing US large cents in the year 1793 and continued striking the large copper cents through the year 1857. Collectors have avidly sought out examples to fill their collections since the inception of these coins.
Not only those who seek out these coins come across them. People will find one or two large cents mixed in with an inheritance, or when cleaning out storage items, or maybe they've bought an example in a flea market or yard sale. Finding information like grade and value can be difficult. On line sites will help but can take a long time to sift through.
Basically there are six main types of US large cents. The picture at the top of this article shows all six in the order of their appearance.
Flowing Hair United States Large Cents 1793
Early copper cents from the United States mint depicted Liberty on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse with the words one cent in the center of the wreath. Liberty had a scared look on her face. The public opinion of this horrid looking coin was quickly taken to heart by the mint and the design for the obverse was quickly changed.
The reverse of this coin started out with a circular chain with thirteen links. These links were said to represent the thirteen original colonies of the United States. Several varieties of chain cents are known today. One type has the word America completely spelled out and another abbreviates the word AMER. Both are extremely rare and command prices in the 6 figure range. Collectors who specialize within this area of US large copper cents are usually in the income bracket with no restrictions. Collecting this type will set you back thousands of dollars for each example.
Capped Bust United States Large Cents 1793 - 1796
This was the answer to the public outcry and the new bust of Liberty was well received. Now minted in much larger numbers the capped bust type becomes collectible for many more people. Examples of this design can be obtained in the hundreds of dollars range, rather then the thousands like it's predecessor. This is sometimes the entry level for collectors with the larger production years.
Investors have also entered the market buying high grade examples and adding them to their financial portfolio. The return on US large cents as an investment has proved itself to be well worth the time to find these beauties.
Draped Bust United States Large Cent 1796 - 1807
In the end of the year 1796 a new design for the obverse of the US large copper cent emerged on the scene. This draped bust type is one of the favorites of the large copper cent collector. With a much higher mintage throughout the series a complete year set of this type is quite possible for the average collector.
Rare years in the series are the 1804 and the 1799. Both of these coins are very high priced examples and if you are going to try to collect United States Draped Bust cents then these should be acquired first if possible and then build a set around them so you will be able to match them all for grade and color. This will guarantee the best price for your efforts when you decide to sell.
Classic Head United States Large Cent 1808 - 1814
The next design for the coins was the new classic head cent. Produced for a fairly short run, this design set can be completed with only seven coins. Putting together a set of classic head large copper cents is a very profitable adventure to say the least. Sets have been known to double the owners money at sale time.
Classic head cents were made with copper blanks made from very soft copper and as a result they wore very rapidly. This fact makes it very challenging and expensive to obtain high grade examples.
United States Coronet Head Large Cent 1816 - 1839
The coronet head cents of the United States are some of the most collected coins in the world. They bronze beautifully with age and color matched sets can be easily collected. Modest price and readily available in brick and mortar coin stores as well as on line sites like eBay and other numismatic auction houses, have made this a very popular issue.
With large mint numbers, as well as a large survival rate for most years, the coronet cents give collectors an area to enter The game that will not break the bank. Examples of this type of large copper cent can be bought for as little as ten dollars in lower grades and high grade uncirculated examples will start at a few hundred dollars for a common year.
Braided Hair United States Large Cent 1840 - 1857
In 1840 the last design change was made to the US large cent. This braided hair version of Liberty was an older version and is sometimes called the matron head. Strongly struck and also beholding some of the nicest proof examples ever struck, this type is the least expensive to collect in any grade.
1857 was the last year for the US large cent and a braided hair cent becomes the last coin in any full set. This last year has two distinct varieties. One having a large date and one having a small date. They are both rare because this being the last issue it was widely collected and many are put away in sets.
If you decide to enter the US large cent collecting arena, make sure you focus on one area. Get the hard coins first, and the set will become easier as you go along. Also look for the highest grade coins you can afford in these hard years all the rest will be less.
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